Title: Ten Gentle Opportunities
Author: Jeff Duntemann
Genre: Fantasy / Science fiction
Price: $2.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Copperwood Press
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib
So I’ve been a fan of Jeff Duntemann’s writing for some time. This, his newest novel and first since 2006, was well-worth the wait. The novel opens with one Bartholomew Stypek on the run from a magician in a fairly low-tech fantasy setting. The chief difference between this world and the bog-standard Fantasyland is that magic can be bought and sold like salt, and worked at least in part by non-adepts. Stypek’s on the run because he stole ten “Opportunities” (raw magic) from a magician, who wants them back.
Desperate to save his hide, Stypek throws himself at the mercy of the Continuum, and asks to be sent far away. This is where things get interesting, because Stypek ends up in our immediate future (late 2020s’) in a small town advertising agency. The ad agency has a prototype AI-built copier, and in our world magic maps to software. Stypek has (or rather concocts) a Gomog as a traveling companion. In our world, said Gomog is an AI, and gets loose in the Tooniverse, a virtual space where various AIs live. Unfortunately for Stypek, the magician who’s after him can and will follow him to our world. Mayhem, entertaining mayhem, ensues.
A lot of the attraction of this book is the clever writing. Several AIs of various levels are point-of-view characters, as are a number of humans. Stypek keeps trying to map our world to his kings-and-magic one, and the humans and AIs keep trying to map Stypek’s magic to bits and bytes. The conflict and confusion between these world-views is amusing and realistic.
The interpersonal conflict and characterization is also well-done. Two of the human characters are a divorced couple, forced by economics to work together, and then get sucked into Stypek’s life-or-death struggle. One of the AIs learns to dance, which proves to be a critical skill.
There were two nits that bothered me in this story. First, one of the AIs, Simple Simon, is in charge of running a robotic factory in which the parts and the finished products (copiers) are thrown in the air instead of moved via conveyor belts. It felt a bit too convenient for the author. The other nit was the AI dancing – I saw that coming a mile away.
Having said that, I was easily able to suspend my disbelief and take a rollicking ride with Jeff Duntemann and his Gentle Opportunities. Highly recommended.