NY: Tor, 1997.
Ordinarily, when I write a review — and I write a great many of them — I try to summarize at least the salient points of the story and the plot, both to identify the book and to try to rope in potential readers. But I’m having a hard time doing that with this book; there’s just so much story here. It’s the third volume of a trilogy: Expiration Date was not a sequel to the award-winning Last Call but a work parallel to it; Earthquake Weather is very much a sequel to both the earlier works at once.Scott Crane, who won the poker game of a lifetime to become the Dionysian King of the West, is dead, murdered by Janis Plumtree — or by one or all of the entities with whom she shares her head. Nature abhors a vacuum and the Earth needs a King, and it had better happen fast or all of the West Coast will be paying the price with droughts and earthquakes and phylloxera. Will the new King be Kootie Parganas? He’s now living with Pete Sullivan and Angelica Elizalde and he’s matured considerably in the past couple of years, mystically preparing himself for the job. Or can Scott Crane, somehow, be summoned back to this world? Sid “Scant” Cochran, whose wife died in extremely strange circumstances the same night the King was stabbed in the throat with a trident, meets Plumtree in a psychiatric ward run by the sanctimonious Dr. Armentrout (an unlikable villain who is new to the story but who has much in common with the ghost-eaters of the previous book), and the two escape to join — or be drafted into — Scott Crane’s tiny army of loyal retainers. And that’s only the tiniest tip of this literary iceberg. The myths come thick and fast, the landscape of San Francisco has never been stranger, the Zinfandel is ready to be decanted, the old truck changes from blue to red, and the Old Gods are waiting (not so patiently) in the cellars of the Winchester House. You’ll have to pay attention to get every last drop of enjoyment out of all this, but it’s definitely worth the effort. But I warn you: Don’t even think of picking up this book until you’ve consumed the previous two.
Every heavy reader — even those who depend on published book review sources to pick and choose among all the newly released titles — nevertheless will admit to having several authors whose newest works they pick up automatically, without recourse to reviews, or even public relations jacket copy. I’m no different and up near the top of my own short list of “automatic” authors is Tim Powers, the master of the “secret history.” Whatever bizarre take on our theoretically real world he’s about to embark on next, I wanna be there.