Dinner at Deviant’s Palace (Ace, 1985). Cover by John Berkey
Tim Powers is a much beloved figure among American fantasy fans. As Gabe Dybing pointed out here in 2020:
He has a strange sort of fame. The most obvious cause for his celebrity is that twice he has won the World Fantasy Award for best novel (Last Call, 1992, and Declare, 2000). He also has been credited with inventing, with The Anubis Gates (1983), the steampunk genre… Finally, for whatever reasons, Disney Studios optioned his 1987 novel On Stranger Tides for its Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
In my own reading circle in the mid-80s however, it wasn’t The Anubis Gates that generated the most excited chatter about Powers, nor his (considerable) steampunk cred. No, it was his Mad Max-inspired novel of a scavenger culture in post-apocalyptic LA, Dinner at Deviant’s Palace, which was nominated for a Nebula and won the Philip K. Dick award for best original paperback in 1986.
Dinner at Deviant’s Palace hasn’t had a paperback reprint in the US since the early 90s, but modern readers continue to find it — and talk about it. It enjoys hundreds of 5-star ratings at Goodreads, including this one from Michael Gardner:
Dinner at Deviant’s Palace is a wham-slam post-apocalyptic adventure like no other. It… reads like a mash up of a Lovecraft novel with a blockbuster action film. It’s where we meet the unique and terrifying adversaries that have emerged from Powers’ imagination, like the haemogoblin…
Gregorio Rivas is certainly one of my favourite Powers’ heroes… a former doer of deeds who is pulled back into the game to rescue his lost love, but set against religious cults and a nuclear ravaged Los Angeles, he has as many secrets to reveal as the strange world he inhabits.
The book is so utterly readable. I’ve read it three times now and got something new out of every read.
But my favorite Goodreads review is this one from Gunslinger Dan:
Gregorio Rivas used to be the best redemptionist in the business but now he’s just a pelican gunner in a band in Ellay. At least, he was until the Distiller of the Treasury shows up and sends him on a mission: to rescue his daughter from the Jaybirds. Is Rivas still up to the task and can he keep from becoming one of Norton Jaybush’s followers?
Tim Powers’ books are always full of crazy ideas but this one takes the taco. Dinner At Deviant’s Palace is a post-apocalyptic story with a level of weirdness that only Tim Powers can deliver. Brandy is used as currency. Bloodsucking monsters called hemogoblins are on the loose. The new Messiah is a rotund madman named Norton Jaybush and his crazed followers are the Jaybirds. Jaybush’s sacrament is a weird psychic pulse that gradually erodes the mind of the Jaybird who receives it…
Gregorio Rivas goes from being a selfish musician to being something of a hero and has his ass repeatedly handed to him in the process… Part of the fun of Dinner At Deviant’s Palace is trying to decode what landmarks and cities in California Powers was referring to. Ellay is obviously Los Angeles, for instance.
Tim Powers remains very active. His popular new trilogy featuring supernatural investigators Vickery and Castine began with Alternate Routes (Baen, 2018) and was quickly followed by Forced Perspectives in 2020. The third volume, Stolen Skies, arrived just last month.
The Vickery and Castine trilogy by Tim Powers (Baen, 2018-2022).
Covers by Todd Lockwood, Adam Burn, and Eric Williams
Our previous coverage of Tim Powers includes:
An Admiration For The Novels of Tim Powers by Gabe Dybing (2020)
Birthday Reviews: Tim Powers’s “Through and Through” by Steven H Silver (2018)
Down and Out in Purgatory: The Collected Stories of Tim Powers (2018)
Future Treasures: Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers (2016)
The Drawing Of The Dark by Tim Powers, Fletcher Vredenburgh (2014)
Dinner at Deviant’s Palace was published by Ace Books in January 1985. It is 294 pages, priced at $2.95. The cover art was by John Berkey. Open Road Media released a digital version in 2013.
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