It seems almost churlish to dislike an ``easy read'' in which the author initially displays a fine wit and intelligence. Yet this weak first book of a series pairs Arthur Clarke's Law about any sufficiently advanced technology being equivalent to magic with a curious cast of characters--ultimately to little effect. Impetuous Captain Joshua Cahn, emissary from the technology-driven universe of the Empire, and his crew are virtually indistinguishable. Cahn's analog from the magic-driven universe is Raven, a quaint fop who likely will be central to future volumes. Amy (short for Amethyst Beryl) Jewell, in whose yard Cahn's ship crash lands, is forever having the same crisis about having to redefine her worldview. Pel Brown, a normal guy and the touchstone for SF readers, invokes Captain Kirk and Star Wars with tedious repetitiveness. Brown's family, his and Amy's lawyers, and some creatures from Raven's universe make up the rest of what may become a multiuniversal peacemaking force. They are often attacked, with consequences that should be significant, but are not. Unfortunately, potentially evocative incidents and memories--Amy's failed marriage, her lawyer Susan Nguyen's childhood in Vietnam, and various deaths, rapes and dismemberments along the way--are rendered in an often prosaic style. Watt-Evans's ( Crosstime Traffic ) writing has been both more interesting and more careful than it is here. Pel Brown often describes himself as a ``spear carrier'' unfit to be the centerpiece of a Great Adventure. The reader will probably concur. (Mar.)
A Hugo Award-winning sf writer who can boast that more than 400,000 copies of his Ethshar novels are in print, Watt-Evans breaks into hardcover with this story of a suburbanite who discovers the portal to another world in his basement.