F. Paul Wilson and Matthew J. Costello
Aspect / 342 pages / 1st edition (April 1998)
Put together two first class writers like F. Paul Wilson and Matthew J. Costello. Do you really need to wring your hands over the final product? Don’t be silly. Perhaps when you combine the output of some minds (the membership of the Aryan Nation may be a good example), what you receive in return is a pointless mess; some combinations cannot help but succeed.
Masque succeeds in a big way that is going to make a lot of readers very happy. Whether you are a diehard Wilson fan (and you can count me among those) or a loyal follower of the script writer of The 7th Guest or The 11th Hour, there is going to be plenty in this novel to please you. In fact, if you’ve never heard of either of these authors, chances are good you are going to enjoy Masque.
Just for the sake of brevity, I’m not even going to dwell on the obvious possibilities for a sequel or two. And if an interactive CD-ROM appears on the market to accompany this book, no need to “rub me out” for knowing too much — just a lucky guess. Really.
Masque takes the idle question, “If you could be anyone in the world, who would you be?” and turns the game deadly serious. Enter a world where one segment of the population can do just that: transform their bodies into virtually anything or anyone. But don’t make the mistake of calling them the luckiest people alive; they are created and owned by the “gloms.” They are property, not people, and the corporate states that control them have no intention of giving up such valuable commodities.
Tristan is one of the most useful of Kaze Gloms’ possessions, a super spy. According to the rules, successful completion of this last dangerous mission will win him the freedom and individuality all mimes crave. But first he must survive the mission and the numerous fluxes that carry the threat of a system meltdown. All this he knows; the other complications along the way are surprises — good, bad, and worse — that he cannot even guess at. And the worst part is he will soon have no idea whom to trust.
Wilson and Costello have populated their book with one of the most diverse and unusual casts in recent memory. The setting is somewhat more familiar, being a close relative to Blade Runner or the underground of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. The only perturbing distractions in an otherwise fascinating book are frequent pop culture references to television and films. They exist to give Tristan a semblance of a past, but they are more annoying than enlightening. Regis is especially irritating amongst so many other carefully crafted characters.
Like I said, that is the only complaint. And in a novel with an aristocratic ancestry such as Masque, what more could a reader conceivably ask for?