Reviews and analysis - Griffin's Egg

Review by Peter D. Tillman
(Review copyright © 2001)

Griffin's Egg
1991, Century Legend (UK); 1992, St. Martins (US). Reprinted in the Dozois 10th Year's Best SF (1993) & in Moon Dogs (NESFA, 2000)

Rating: A/A+ : Swanwick at his high-tech/ high-touch best. I just wish it were longer.

Gunther Weil is a truckdriver with a bad attitude, hauling fuel rods to Chatterjee Crater industrial park ...

Griffin's Egg cover

"Gunther drove automatically, gauging his distance from Bootstrap by the amount of trash lining the Mare Vaporum road ..." He likes to break new tracks in the "cherry soil, terrain no human or machine had ever crossed before." His dispatcher isn't pleased, and not for the first time: "Weil! Were the fuck are you?"

Ekaterina Izmailova is a demolition jock, hired to "clean up" a reactor meltdown. With a briefcase nuke. "It was unfuckabelievable. The one side of the crater just disappeared..."

Gunther and Ekaterina end up alone together, stuck in an emergency rad shelter, trapped by a demented drill-punch - "The machine followed him, the diamond-tipped punch sliding nervously in and out of its sheath. its movements as tremulous and dainty as a newborn colt's." CLANG ... CLANG.

After chiseling off the shelter's outer door, the punch wanders off. G & E, expecting death, celebrate life: "Are you coming yet?" she murmured ... "Tell me when you're about to come ..." - pillow-talk with an sfnal twist that it would be unfair to reveal.


Griffin's Egg, while very short (75 pages) "has the multiplex attack of a true novel" (John Clute). I wish it were longer. This is Swanwick at his hard-SF best, in a setting that's a prequel to "Trojan Horse" and Vacuum Flowers. Radical neuroengineering bears its first fruit - an aerosol schizomimetic war gas. Which gets it first use inside the lunar habitat. It's a horrifying vision - Swanwick is disturbingly good at those - etched in literally hallucinatory clarity. Breughel and Bosch come to mind, with a nod to Shakespeare's Ophelia.

The ending feels false and hurried, but this is the only real flaw in the piece. Folks, 'serious' space opera doesn't get much better than this - Griffin's Egg alone is worth the price of Moon Dogs (reviewed nearby), plus you get all that other Neat Stuff too! Do we do unbiased, nonpartisan reviews here, or what?

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