Tuesday, June 07, 2005

My next Sean Stewart book was Galveston, which won the World Fantasy Award in 2001. It's set in the same reality as The Night Watch, where magic started seeping back into the world in the 1940s before a flood of it in 2004 caused havoc everywhere. Galveston takes place about 40-50 years before the events in The Night Watch, covering the years just past the flood up to about 2030 or so. Because it's not as far removed, bits and pieces of technology are still in use and many people are still trying to hold onto their previous way of life. The story follows Sloane Gardner, the well-to-do daughter of the sort-of mayor of the city and Josh Cane, her childhood friend brought low by bad luck. Stewart uses these two characters to explore issues of class and fundamental aspects of society. "Civilization isn't what happens in the absence of barbarity, Mr. Cane. It's what we struggle to build in the midst of it." While Sloane tries to find a way to escape from her station and the responsibilities it brings, Josh sees his fall from grace as unfair and can't seem to come to terms with his present situation. Neither are very sympathetic characters, but Stewart makes them understandable and we care about them despite their actions. The magic, Mardi Gras, and especially poker run through the whole novel. Sloane comes into her own by learning to play the game and Josh, too, finally accepts his cards as they have been dealt instead of protesting his hand. "Josh likes chess because it's fair. Each player controls exactly what happens on the board, and the one who plays best wins. That's what makes it a boy's game." Sam took a pack of cards out of his jacket pocket and decanted them with thoughtless grace. "A man's game should be like life."

Oh, and there are cannibals.

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