BOOK REVIEW: Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick

Chasing the Phoenix is a science fiction novel by Michael Swanwick, published by Tor Books earlier this month.

The book stars Swanwick’s recurring characters, the con men Darger and Surplus. As the story begins, Surplus is journeying through a future China with the Darger’s corpse carried on the back of a yak, seeking the services of the legendary healer the Infallible Physician to raise Darger from the dead. Once that’s happened (it happens early enough in the book that I don’t think that counts as a spoiler). Considering greed a virtue, the con men are always looking for ways to profit from their circumstances. Surplus, who is an anthropomorphic dog, has used his appearance to his advantage by pretending to be an immortal, and with Surplus rising from the dead they have soon gained the attention of powerful people involved in a brewing civil war. Even among one side of the war, there are always those jockeying for power and willing to kill to get their way, and soon the two con men are working all sides just to stay alive.