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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Recently Read: "Last Call" by Tim Powers

"Last Call" by Tim Powers

Another marvelous fantasy by Tim Powers.  This is a re read, since our book club had picked it, and was the first time I've read it in probably ten years. 

Based upon T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land", along with the Parsifal legend and heavy with Tarot symbolism, the book has Bugsy Siegel as The Fisher King, building the Flamingo Hotel as the Tarot's Tower.  Siegel is killed by George Leon, who plans on using his sons as vessels for him take over as he ages.  Leon's wife shoots George in the groin to protect young Scott, permanently wounding George with a Fisher King's unhealing wound.  Scott, losing an eye to George and thus becoming a one-eyed Jack, is found and adopted by Ozzie and raised as a professional poker player.

After playing a game of "assumption" with his real father (in his brother's Richard's body) as an adult, Scott is abandoned by Ozzie, not realizing that his soul is in jeopardy, as George has won Scott's body to use in the future.  Years later, when it is time for another round of "Assumption" Scott must figure out how to win his body back.  Along for the ride is Scott's neighbor, suffering from cancer and looking for a magical cure, and an older Ozzie, recruited in order to save Scott's adopted sister Diana, who is slated to become the Fisher King's Queen.

This was the book that firmly put Powers in my "buy at sight" category (though he was really there already).  I don't read a lot of fantasy anymore, and have avoided most modern stuff ("urban fantasy"), but Powers can write about any topic and turn it into a fantasy that fascinates me.  Here he is heavy into the magic of poker (descended from Tarot).  As is common with him, he has found real events (here the founding of Vegas by Siegel) and woven a "hidden history" with a magical background that still allows most people to be unaware of what is really happening.

I was a little disappointed that most of the book group didnt' care for the book, citing different issues with it (some thought they couldn't root for the main characters, others thought it was slow).

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