SCIENCE FICTION SHELF
Southshore, Vol. 2 of The Awakeners, by Sherri S. Tepper. New York: TOR. 250 pp. $3.95. The Noor and the Rivermen are hungry for freedom; Thrasne and Medoor Babji are hungry for love; the false ``Protector's'' courtiers are hungry for long life and power; and the Thraish, sentient winged ``birds'' of prey, are hungry period, having decimated cattle herds with their own greed. And beneath the World River that shapes the planet's strange lands, ``Strangeys'' from the stars monitor the meeting of human and native life forms. Fanatic or idealist, beggar or queen, from self-serving to selfless, the characters are so movingly realized that no one who lands on the bizarre and colorful ``Northshore'' can wait to visit the ``Southshore,'' and readers who have been to both can only clamor for more. Tepper is the kind of fine and thoughtful writer who gives fantasy a good name. Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy in ``Ten Little Wizards,'' by Michael Kurland. New York: Ace Books. 188 pp. $2.95.
It is 1988 in the Angevin Empire, old in magic, new in steam engine technology. The Plantagenet heir is about to become Duke of Normandy, when murders most foul occur - mysteriously and magically. Enter suave and laid-back Lord Darcy, his crafty common-born sidekick, aristocratic lady friend, untitled admirers, and titled spies. Season this familiar mix with a Freudian fraud and the Polish secret police, and presto - a harmless froth of wizardry and whimsy - as in Lord Peter. Only readers of Randall Garrett's original can judge its relation to Kurland's affectionate whirl. For while half the fun of ``Ten Little Wizards'' lies in recognizing the games mystery and fantasy people play, the other half is missing. Seventh Son, by Orson Scott Card. New York: TOR. A Tom Doherty Associates Book. 241 pp. $3.95.
When hexmasters and spellmasters banished from the Old World settle the New, Taleswapper (William Blake, itinerant artist extraordinaire) spins stories to bind natives and settlers together into this alternate America of strong individualism and magic. Preternatural vision links preacher, poet, and tribal chief, joining the life of a frontier girl who feels future dangers to the fate of a pioneer boy who wants only to do what is right in a world where everybody keeps telling him what is wrong.
Young Al Miller did not ask to be the ``Seventh Son'' of a seventh son, much less to do lonely battle with an ``Unmaker'' trying to unravel the fabric of creation. The first book in this series about the changing shapes of good and evil is a deeply felt and finely crafted parable probing the ways in which stubbornly held beliefs can hold our world together or break it apart. The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley. Edited by Martin Greenberg. New York: Daw. 397 pp. $3.95.
From enthralling (``Centaurus Changeling'') to awful (``The Engine''), these fugitive pieces (1954 to 1980) are not so much Bradley's ``best'' as her quest to be best, tracing her development as often by flaws as by achievements. ``To Keep the Oath'' sensitively reveals the strengths and limitations of a disciplined female ``order'' that offers haven and hope to Darkover women who are - literally or symbolically - in chains. Its power to move us suggests that a book of Free Amazon tales would be far more rewarding than this one.
Bradley's introduction eloquently explains her sustained dedication to writing about human values from Darkover to Avalon: ``I cannot imagine that the content of mainstream ... novels ... can possibly compete with a fiction whose sole raison d'etre is to think about the future of the human race.'' Write on.