Oh, to be an engineer in a Leo Frankowski book--you've gotta be honest and you've gotta work hard, but not only do you get to be as brilliant and rich as an astronaut, you get to pull down more than your share of the ladies. (Hey, after all those long hours studying fluid dynamics and systems analysis, it's only fair.) Back for another light-hearted but rumination-filled romp, the beloved author of the Conrad Stargard adventures turns his attention to a legendary nautical mirage, the Fata Morgana. Frankowski supposes the illusion might actually be the mythic Western Isles, which medieval mapmakers put off the coast of France, set adrift in an earthquake to float the world's oceans for hundreds of years.
Fata Morgana's two engineer-protagonists find themselves, naturally, shipwrecked on this strange island, a curious civilization of some 12,000 people largely cut off from present-day earth. Their tech level believably answers the obvious "what-ifs," with the islanders boasting advanced genetics and textiles (including an indestructible "Super-Hemp") but primitive sciences and stunted social progress otherwise. The two sailors create quite a stir with their SCUBA gear, cans of Spam, and Star Wars videotapes--not to mention the fact that the raw materials on their yacht make them rich in this metal-starved land--and intrigue soon ensues.
A fun book to be sure, with satisfying problem-solving and original ideas, but the main character's endless musings on everything from why the government wants us wearing clothes to why a just God can't exist will either irritate or charm you. (And consider yourself warned: our chief hero actually uses the term "Women's Lib" with a straight face and is quick to point out he's not "a f***ing queer!") --Paul Hughes