Friday, 11 May 2001

Katharine Kerr: Freezeframes (1994)

Edition: HarperCollins, 1994 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 819

The Faust legend is the inspiration for this science fiction novel. It begins in the sixties, when a middle aged professor at a minor university sells his soul to the devil for a younger body and takes up a new life as a drug dealer in the San Francisco hippie culture. His story is quite a straightforward version of the legend; it is the role of the virtuous Margaret that he meets in California which forms the main part of the novel. The devil, in the form of student Nick Harrison, wants to destroy Margaret, but is unable to; when she becomes pregnant, he thinks he has won, but she just points out that this is the nineteen sixties and has the child. From this point, the novel consists of a series of episodes in the lives of Margaret's descendants as Nick tries to attack them. The longest is the previously published novella Resurrection, about Margaret's great granddaughter Tiffany. This has a paranoid plot like a Philip K. Dick story: Tiffany is recovering from a few moments of clinical death when she begins to realise that she is no longer in the same reality as that in which she grew up.

The episodes which make up Freezeframes are perhaps a little too disjointed for it to feel that it is a unified whole, but its main problem is that it has too many ideas. The best of these is the concept of the devil undertaking a personal vendetta against Maggie's family in a world which barely believes in him, but we also have telepathic contact by alien invaders and alternate worlds (both favourites of Dick). The main stories are interesting in themselves, and the novel is well written, but it remains unsatisfying.

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