|Dinner at Deviant's Palace (1985) [Novel]|
by Tim Powers
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The civilized world had come to an end more than a century earlier, but in California life and society went on...taking strange, often horrifying forms.
Gregario Rivas was a survivor- a proud, resourceful man who had, most recently, made his way from the corrupt, crumbling city of Venice to carve out a successful career as a musician within the walls of Ellay. He played his pelican with raw energy and flashy style, and people came from all over to hear him. But Greg's real claim to fame had nothing to do with music. It was part of his past he wanted to forget. And it had come back to haunt him...
A well-dressed old man stood at the bar watching the band play, and it took a few moments between the time that Rivas first noticed him and the unpleasant spark of recognition. It was Irwin Barrows, father of the girl Greg had loved some 13 years ago, and longed for ever since. Urania.
Barrows hadn't been at all pleased at the relationship between his only child and a tenant farmer's son, and he'd put an abrupt end to the romance- to the boy's everlasting humiliation. Yet Greg managed to remain outwardly cool as he wandered over to join the man, well aware that there was only one possible reason for Irwin Barrows to seek him out.
It was Greg Rivas, redeemer, the old man wanted. For Urania had been recruited by the followers of self-proclaimed messiah Norton Jaybush. Outsiders knew very little about the cult- just stories of Jaybush's "miracles" and incredible powers of mind control... and the disturbing fact that once a convert entered the Holy City of Irvine, he or she never returned. Grief-stricken families who could pay the price hired redeemers- contract kidnappers who would, with luck, bring lost sons and daughters home again before the cult's mysterious sacrament burned out their minds. Greg Rivas was the best. Because Greg had once been a Jaybird himself.
Rivas wanted to turn the job down. Life as a star was comfortable and lucarative; redemptions could be deadly. Why should he risk all for a man he hated, or even a woman he had once loved? The memory of his Jaybird days was still vivid: the devastating shock of communion, the messiah's methodical system of disassembling minds and consuming souls, leaving only gibbering shells of humanity behind. Rivas had escaped, yet freedom had led to another kind of hell. Venice, city of sin and death, where men and women too often succumbed to a killing addiction to the drug called Blood; where sickness, fear and madness reigned, and mutants of all kinds did their best to survive.
Barrows was desperate, willing to pay an enormous fee, but for Greg there was more than money at stake. Had he lost his nerve? Could he leave Urania to face the horror he had known? Even as he bartered, Rivas knew he'd go.
But this was going to be his last redemption... one that would cost him his self respect and bits of his life, slowly and agonizingly. It would lead him into both Jaybush's Holy City and the cruel heart of Venice- the infamous nightclub known as Deviant's Palace. And there he would discover the terrifying link between sin and salvation.