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Fantastical foxy fiction
[SA2 Edition]
Toronto Star - Toronto, Ont.
Author: Stuewe, Paul
Date: Aug 18, 1990
Start Page: M.9
Abstract (Document Summary)

Both Kim Stanley Robinson's Escape From Kathmandu (Tor, $5.95) and Robert Asprin's Phule's Company (Ace, $4.95) are classified as "science fiction" on their spines, but examination of their innards reveals a more fantastic bent. Escape From Kathmandu consists of four linked novellas set in contemporary Nepal, where a couple of happy-go-lucky adventurers keep getting involved in complicated and comical plots. Phule's Company spoofs the space-soldier brand of science fiction in a novel about military misfits being shaped into an elite fighting force, with lots of slapstick hijinks showcased in a narrative that's in no hurry to get anywhere fast. Both are low- key, somewhat lightweight entertainments that keep their pages turning pleasantly enough.

Murder Will Out: The Detective in Fiction, by T. J. Binyon, Oxford, $12.50. Unlike most other literary genres, detective fiction features characters who are often far more famous than their creators: Sherlock Holmes and Jules Maigret receive nods of recognition the world over, whereas Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Georges Simenon are much less well-known. T. J. Binyon's historical survey of the subject takes this as the starting point for some highly illuminating analysis which, for the most part, concentrates upon the classic writers in the field. His capsule comments on Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Rex Stout, et al., are models of judicious summation, and take care to bring out the particular strengths that have earned them legions of loyal fans. He is also an excellent guide to such relatively neglected figures as E. C. Bentley, R. Austin Freeman and Georgette Heyer, whose merits are persuasively argued in a text that covers a remarkable amount of ground. Binyon isn't quite as satisfactory on North American authors - he hasn't read as widely here, and his treatment of Ross Macdonald suggests a fundamental lack of sympathy with those who try to stretch genre boundaries - but in all other respects Murder Will Out is a valuable contribution to our appreciation of a deservedly popular brand of writing.

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