Tim Powers,
Last Call
(Avon, 1992)

Tim Powers is a force to be reckoned with in the field of contemporary fantasy. His novel Last Call beckons readers into the garish Otherworld of Las Vegas and takes them on a ride they will never forget.

Professional gambler Scott Crane is down on his luck and takes a chance at the high-rise stakes of Assumption. Believing he won the big game, he goes about with his life, never knowing that he gambled more than he realized.

When Crane's wife dies and mysterious men start chasing him, Crane tracks down his stepfather, Ozzie, with the help of his next-door neighbor Archimedes Mavronos. Ozzie clues Crane in about the Fisher King legend and informs Crane that things are about to get much worse. Georges Leon, the current Fisher King and Crane's birth father, is working out of an army of bodies he assumed at the last Assumption game and is preparing to collect the bodies he won at the game where Crane was present. Archimedes -- or Arky -- rides along with Crane, convinced that the random patterns of gambling will somehow rid him of cancer.

Powers has created a fast-paced, complex tale filled with physics, gambling, and tarot mysticism; it also relies heavily on references from T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land." Powers' attention to details is delightful -- observant readers will be treated to a wealth of information about myths and magic. The novel moves along at a rollicking pace, ending with a powerful resolution that skillfully ties together all the points of the plotline; every tiny piece fits.

The characters all seem real, with personal motivations beyond those set up by the plot. Each character struggles with human emotion, whether it's pride, family loyalty, or despair. One of my main gripes about contemporary fantasy is that sometimes the characters believe TOO easily; that isn't the case here. In many instances, Crane and crew are doubtful enough to consider calling the hand they've been dealt. But they don't -- they struggle through the doubt and come to an understanding about the things that are going on in very real, human ways.

Powers has a flair for believable dialogue and description. This painstakingly researched novel is packed full of theories and legends, each of which are explained in a way that doesn't slow down the action but keeps readers well-informed. Last Call definitely deserves the World Fantasy Award it received.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]



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