Fiction Reviews

Earthquake Weather

(1997 / 2015) Tim Powers, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, xi + 437pp, ISBN 978-1-473-21205-3


Earthquake Weather (1997) is the fourth of Tim Power’s novels to get the 'Fantasy Masterworks' treatment from Gollancz.  His 1983 novel The Anubis Gates was re-released in the old-style series which ran between 2000 and 2007; while Last Call (1992), the first of his 'Fault Lines' series, was reprinted in 2013. This was followed by his novel Expiration Date, which came out again in 2015 and, like much of his other work, features a recurrent theme in Powers' oeuvre – the search for immortality.

Expiration Date is also part of the 'Fault Lines' series, but at a slight distance, given the protagonists and the location, but it is still whackily inventive; while Earthquake Weather is a more of a direct sequel to Last Call (1992) which was also given the Fantasy Masterworks treatment in 2013, which is loosely based on the Fisher King legend but centred around Las Vegas.  Last Call won a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1993. I was lucky enough to meet Powers at the 2013 World Fantasy Convention held in Brighton, which he attended with his great friend and fellow fantasist, James Blaylock: the two of them (and also K. W. Jeter) were mentored by the late Phillip K. Dick and Powers and Blaylock have co-written work together, especially featuring their shared creation, the poet, William Ashbless.

What we get here in this repackaged edition of Earthquake Weather is a book consisting of 34 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue together with an introduction by Ian Tregillis.  The front cover features a gothic-looking house, a classical statue which might be riding a bull, which perhaps, offers some clue to as the contents between the covers, and while there are definite classical references and roots in Earthquake Weather, there is also not surprisingly some bad weather and, surprisingly, a subplot involving wine production.

The wine reference comes from an attack on the Californian vineyards by the aphid-like grape phylloxera (Viteus vitifoliae).  The vineyards along with the rest of that region are normally under the protection of Scott Crane, but Crane is dead, or rather almost dead, his body in a preserved limbo, and who knows where his spirit might be, however, since Crane is the Fisher King there are rules of life and death that have to be followed, but due to Crane’s untimely death ( well, murder, actually, by a woman who seems to be possessed by spirits (or is she?)) the celestial rule book has been thrown out of the window.  Koot Hoomie, better known as Kootie, a character from Expiration Date, is the Fisher King’s natural successor, but not at this point in his young life, therefore we are on a quest to reunite Crane’s perfectly preserved body with his spirit. However, at this time of instability there are evil forces at large who have been waiting to take advantage of such a power vacuum.

It has to be said straight from the start that readers who come to Earthquake Weather without having read the previous two books are in for a bumpy ride, not being familiar with the cast or the world Powers has placed his creations in. Also, this book isn’t as clean a read as its predecessors, which had fairly straightforward plots for highly inventive fantasy novels. It is almost as if Powers has mashed up elements of the two previous books and added even more stuff into the mix to create that bumpy, nay, lumpy ride; although you have to admire his sheer invention and some of the characters, set pieces and fantastical paraphernalia that he comes up with from old-fashioned search engines to references to ancient Greek legends to even riffing off Charles Dickens.

To sum up Earthquake Weather is not as good as some of Powers’ previous novels, like The Anubis Gates  or The Stress of Her Regard  or Last Call, but it is certainly better than most fantasy fair that is currently being published, even if it is nearly twenty years old.  Entertaining, but not a classic of the field.

Ian Hunter

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