Volume 1, Number 4, Fall, 1983

SF Thriller


By Kay Nolte Smith

William Morrow and Co., 1983, 311 pages
Reviewed by Victoria Varga
July 2020

If you read Roy A. Childs, Jr.’s review of Mindspell in the August Update, you know he loved it. But I knew that before the review came out, because I tried to talk to Roy on the phone while he was reading it. All I got was, “I just can’t talk right now, Tory. I’m in the middle of Mindspell!”

I didn’t get a copy until a few days into the LP Convention in New York City. I was in the car, just about to leave for the Worldcon and completely lost in the book when I was informed that the author wanted to meet me. I very nearly protested, “But I’m right in the middle of…”

As you can see, Kay Nolte Smith is very good at grabbing your attention.

But after reading it, what interested me most is what Roy so carefully brushed aside at the end of his review. Kay was “associated with Ayn Rand” for a time, and I thought that influence was apparent in Ms. Smith’s first novel, The Watcher. So it is fascinating to see Rand’s influence disappear as Kay’s voice becomes stronger and more confident.

Oh a few “Randian” words creep in here and there, but she avoids most of Rand’s literary foibles. Smith’s characters have more dimension—each has her/his own way of speaking. The reader senses their personal history and culture. They are real, not figures in a morality play.

And then she hits you with an ending that blows off your socks. I’ll somehow avoid saying anything more than Rand would never have written that.

As Roy Childs says, Kay is “an original.”

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