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Trapped in the top-secret virtual world known as Otherland, a small group of online explorers travel along a river of possibilities in search of a way back to the real world. This sequel to OtherWorld: City of Golden Shadow (LJ 11/15/96) delivers a kaleidoscopic array of dreamscapes and nightmare worlds that form a setting for a complex tale of conspiracy and betrayal. Williams displays a prodigious talent for spinning multiple variations on a theme as he alternates between real and virtual worlds. This fast-paced, ambitious blend of fantasy and sf belongs (along with its predecessor) in most fantasy collections.

In his first work of SF, Otherland: City of Golden Shadow (1997), bestselling fantasist Williams (To Green Angel Tower) introduced one of the most impressive virtual-reality landscapes ever created. Otherland, a gigantic realm consisting of untold numbers of virtual universes, is the creation of the mysterious and evil Grail Brotherhood, a cabal of billionaire capitalists, ruthless gangsters and corrupt government officials. Bent on discovering the secret of eternal life, they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal, even the deaths of hundreds of children whose minds have been trapped on the Net. City of Golden Shadow told the story of a small band of virtual explorers who dared to enter Otherland without permission, some for adventure, others to save the children ensnared on the Net. In this second volume of a projected four-book series, the quest continues. As often happens with middle entries in a series, there are a few problems. Despite a six-page summary, readers unfamiliar with City of Golden Shadow may have trouble figuring out the complex backstory. Further, with little to tie the various plot threads together at either end, the book lacks an obvious structure. Still, Williams is an exciting and endlessly inventive writer whose character development is particularly strong, and his fans should roundly enjoy this volume while looking forward to the remaining installments. Editors: Betsy Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert. (July)

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