Friday, 20 July 2001

Tony Daniel: Warpath (1994)

Edition: Gollancz, 1994
Review number: 880

Tony Daniel's debut novel is quite remarkably imaginative, and is filled with well integrated, unusual ideas. It is mainly set on the planet Candle, five hundred light years from Earth, and the main character is a reconstituted man from the past, when his brain pattern was beamed into space from Earth. That is not the only bizarre method of space travel in the novel; when the first spaceships arrived, they were amazed to find the planet already colonised by Mississippi Indians, who had found metaphysical ways to paddle their canoes across the interstellar void before the white man even arrived in America.

Throughout the galaxy, Indian colonists control the entire stock of a kind of clay that can act as the best computer memory available - a small lump can store an entire human personality. This control seems to be about to bring war between the Indians and the later settlers, and this is a war which mirrors conflicts between the creatures who act as magical familiars for the Indians.

It is the combination of ideas from Indian folklore and history - the ownership of the clay is obviously inspired by the discovery of oil on Indian reservations - with more traditional science fiction which makes Warpath unusual. It is a fascinating piece of imaginative writing, and marks Daniel as a novelist well worth looking out for in the future.

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