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    A WIZARD IN THE WAY by Christopher Stasheff

    Tor, September 2000

    Gar Pike continues his journey through the stars making abandoned earth-colonies safe for democracy. This time he lands on a planet where some of the inhabitants have developed psychic abilities and use these to lord it over the others. These magicians have co-opted native life forms--ghosts and dragons. As in the other recent Wizard books (see, for example, our review of A WIZARD AT WAR, Gar is accompanied by his female sidekick and shield-mate, Alea.

    In the standard Wizard novel, Gar quickly joins up with some form or resistance movement and overthrows the oppressors. Here, things are more difficult. The magicians' psychic abilities leave the serfs in terror, unwilling and unable to resist. Gar decides to teach Taoism (The Way) as an approach that teaches the value of harmony, as well as permission to allow opressors to stumble on their own weapons. Eventually, Gar's teachings lead to a magician reaction and to a conflict that threatens to undo everything Gar has taught.

    Christopher Stasheff (see more reviews of novels by this author) is a master of light fantasy and A WIZARD IN THE WAY is no exception (even the title is a bit of a pun). The relationship between Gar and Alea continues to be one of mutual attraction and frustration. Unlike his Warlock series, in which Stasheff solved all of the problems in the first novel and thrashed around trying to find new problems in the following novels, the Wizard series moves Gar to new worlds and new challenges in each novel.

    I found Gar's decision to use Tao to lead to revolution an interesting twist (in some ways similar to the use of Budhism in Zelazny's LORD OF LIGHT (see our review). I would have liked, however, to see more of the teachings and a greater reliance on these teachings to lead to the final conclusion. Also, Stasheff has created a bit of a bind with the Gar/Area relationship. The sexual tension adds a great deal to the novel, yet the relationship must move forward if it is to avoid becoming stale. I look forward to seeing how Stasheff resolves this dilemma in later novels in this series.

    Three Stars

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