Grimwood stumbles in this ambitious SF stand-alone, which falls short of the high mark set by his Arabesk trilogy (Pashazade, etc.), hard-boiled mysteries set in a near-future where the Ottoman Empire still exists. Grimwood alternates between the present-day efforts of an assassin to kill the U.S. president and a more cryptic future story line set aboard a Chinese spaceship. While the two plots eventually converge in a way most time-travel fans will have anticipated, the whole proves to be less than the sum of its parts. The action can become confusing and the language overblown. As usual, though, the author displays much cunning and wit as he grapples seriously with political themes. (Sept.)
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Grimwood's Arabesk trilogy (Pashazade, 2001; Effendi, 2002; Felaheen, 2003) blended William Gibson-esque cyberpunk, alternate history, and hard-boiled detective elements. His new novel straddles the line between political intrigue and futuristic sf. It's the story of a lone gunman whose failure to assassinate the U.S. president opens a Pandora's box of mysteries. The novel explores the would-be assassin's life by leaping backward and forward in time, from his upbringing on the streets of Marrakech to more than 4,000 years hence, when he wields great tendrils of influence on a system of worlds ruled by a Chinese emperor. Prisoner Zero (so dubbed because he chooses to remain mute after arrest) is either a madman or an undiscovered genius whose cell-wall scribblings may contain the formula to humanity's first warp drive. Grimwood skillfully weaves Moroccan and Far Eastern culture in an inventive, philosophically resonant story line that keeps the reader guessing about Prisoner Zero until the final pages. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.