Dinner at Deviant’s Palace is both representative of Tim Powers’ work and a significant departure from his earlier novels. The plot formula is very similar to that of nearly all of his previous novels. The protagonist encounters a problem, struggles against it, and gives himself up to drugs and denial when the going gets tough, but he pulls himself together for one last try in the nick of time. The formula is acted out slightly differently in this book because the stuporous period has ended long before the book begins. Even this, however, is reminiscent of The Drawing of the Dark (1979); both books begin with the protagonist unwillingly revisiting his past for the sake of a woman he lost.
Despite the familiar plot, Powers breaks new ground in Dinner at Deviant’s Palace. In contrast to The Drawing of the Dark, The Anubis Gates (1983), On Stranger Tides (1987), and The Stress of Her Regard (1989), the adversary in this book is not supernatural. There are vampiric ghosts, zombies, monsters, and beings with superhuman powers, but all of these are explained without resort to magic. In addition, the ending of Dinner at Deviant’s Palace leaves important business unconsummated, whereas the other four books all end with the adventure finished, even if the protagonist does not get to live happily ever after. Powers may have thought that it was safer to end a science-fiction novel on an ambiguous note because science fiction deals with subject matter inherently more familiar than that of fantasy, depending as it does on laws of nature and...
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