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Bewildering Stories

Kage Baker, Anvil Of The World

reviewed by Jerry Wright

Anvil Of The World
Author: Kage Baker
Publisher: Tor
Hardcover: August 2003
Paperback: December 2004
Length: 350 pages
ISBN: 0-765-34907-8
Price: $6.99
I first stumbled upon Kage Baker in the pages of Asimov's SF magazine. Gardner Dozois had (as usual) grabbed up this new talent and was publishing this talented lady's consistantly fine SF (and occasionally fantasy).

Most of Baker's works deal with "The Zeus Company", a bunch of time-travelers who created immortal agents near the beginning of recorded history to hide in the cracks and "hijack" treasures that fall through those cracks. The operative phrase seems to be: "If it wasn't written down, it never happened." And so causality is saved, and temporal paradoxes don't happen.

Well, never mind, because THIS book, Anvil Of The World, takes place in a totally different world. One of fantasy. Only Baker's fantasies seem very real while you are reading them. This is the tale of a man who calls himself "Smith" for various reasons that seem good to him. It is a very episodic tale, which makes it seem as though it was a "Fix-Up" of various stories from, say The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Don't know, haven't read enough from that magazine to be able to tell you. But never mind, episodic though it seems, there is a story arc, and information that is planted in the first section is needed in the end.

Also... The fact that the man calls himself "Smith" and the title of the book is Anvil Of The World are highly inter-related. This is a fun book, with some laugh-out-loud parts, and Smith's interaction with the children of the Master of the Mountain contain some of the funnier parts.

You see... Smith belongs to the race called "the Children of the Sun". They love to create, to build, and to... procreate. Only they aren't terribly forward looking and don't see the various disasters (including ecological) they are heading for. They are in conflict with...

...the Yendri, a green-skinned race of nature-lovers and philosophers that long ago escaped from slavery in a distant land led by their Holy Child. Only now many of the Yendri are angry at the Holy Child because she married a Demon who is now called "The Master Of The Mountain" and they have given birth to a number of very conflicted half-demon/half-saintly children.

Anyway, the book is enjoyable, takes you places that neither you nor Smith ever thought you'd see, and contains many fine bits of humor such as the magical and absurd Duel of Fatally Verbal Abuse.

The book has been compared to works by Terry Pratchett, P.G. Wodehouse, and an Errol Flynn movie produced by Monty Python. Whatever. It is just very well worth your while.

Copyright © 2005 by Jerry Wright for Bewildering Stories