Key Selling Points- Charles Sheffield won the prestigious Nebula and Hugo Awards, and his Baen novel The Mind Pool has an 86% sellthrough.- He was also author of two nonfiction best sellers, Man on Earth and Earthwatch, and writes an online column, "The Borderlands of Science."- A physicist and mathematician, Sheffield published over a hundred technical papers and was Vice President of the Earth Satellite Corporation.- A past president of the American Astronautical Society, he combined his knowledge of science with strong storytelling skills to create compelling science fiction.
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A pockmarked face, a decided paunch and two missing front teeth notwithstanding, renowned physician Erasmus Darwin was, as Nebula Award winner Sheffield illustrates here, not only arguably the greatest 18th-century Englishman but a 24-carat charmer. A practicing scientist himself as well as the author of justly admired hard SF (The Spheres of Heaven, etc.), Sheffield poses six bedeviling mysteries smacking of the supernatural, which the real Erasmus Darwin would have found irresistible: an aquatic devil lurking in the depths of a Scottish loch; a deadly Oriental ruby that kills to defend itself; a phantom highwayman making off with passengers' jewels from a locked coach; a werebeast, a vampire and a cursed treasure from a pre-Roman king all in the historical context of England's Age of Reason. The author cleverly inserts several of the leading scientific minds of the late 1700s into these elegantly wrought short stories, including such luminaries as the endearing engineer James Watt and the brilliant chemist Joseph Priestley. Each tale also hints that Erasmus anticipated a then-horrifying theory that made his better-known descendant's name an anathema to traditional Christians. Plagued by gout that was exacerbated through lovingly delineated dietary indiscretions like clove-laced squab pie and flagons of claret and port, Erasmus Darwin follows his life's motto eat or be eaten into Sheffield's masterfully crafted tales, which are sure to keep the author in the limelight.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
How, you ask, might a prolific science fictionist take a break? Sheffield writes mystery stories. What's more, they're historical mysteries, set in the eighteenth century and featuring an actual person as the sleuth. Sheffield's detective is Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), the physician grandfather of Charles, whose wide-ranging curiosity encompassed his friend James Watt's development of the steam engine and his acquaintance Benjamin Franklin's electrical experiments, and who anticipated in his writings his grandson's theory of evolution. Those interests come out in the course of the six stories collected here, but it is Darwin's diagnostic genius that solves the cases of the mysteriously ill or deceased persons on which he is called to consult. A good sleuth deserves a sidekick, and Sheffield gives rotund, ravenous Darwin a beaut: rail-thin, rather rickety Colonel Jacob Pole, landed gent and former world traveler, always in search of hidden treasure he never finds. The pair's adventures are as delightful and as ratiocinative as those of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, and Sheffield's appendix sorts the facts from the fiction in them. Ray Olson
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