(1954- ) US author who began publishing sf with "Firebird Suite" for Amazing in 1981. His first novel, Inner Eclipse (1988), is a strongly atmospheric tale, illuminated by striking visual images, which describes a search for Alien intelligence on a jungle world whose major industry is the export of an extremely dangerous recreational Drug. The protagonist, an empath (see ESP) who wants to abandon humanity (to whose violence and hypocrisy his talent bares him) in favour of the aliens, in the end achieves an ambiguous redemption. Subterranean Gallery (1989), which won the 1990 Philip K Dick Award, is set in a City full of dropouts and underground artists in a Near-Future America filled with analogues of and references to the present (abortion has been banned; the country is fighting a Vietnam-style war in Central America; police fly "dragoncubs" which resemble helicopters and use "stunclubs" rather than nightsticks) and tells a convincing and richly characterized story of a man's search for meaning in creativity. The Frank Carlucci sequence of noir Near Future crime thrillers set in San Francisco (see California) – comprising Destroying Angel (1992), Carlucci's Edge (1995) and Carlucci's Heart (1997), all three assembled as Carlucci (omni 2003) – only cosmetically lessens the intensity of Russo vision of America as a Dystopia in the making.
The stories assembled in Terminal Visions (coll 2000) darken the picture again, several of them focusing on patterns of psychic and physical immurement. The volume contains a short sequence of tales featuring the Chuurka, an Alien civilization long resident on Earth, which ultimately "enlists" Homo sapiens as a client species whose role is to serve in the Chuurkas' stead in the exploration of deep space; some humans experience Transcendence, but most suffer profoundly. An underlying message – that we have no more role in the running of the universe than would the passengers on a Ship of Fools – is perhaps clearest in the appropriately named Ship of Fools (2001; vt Unto Leviathan 2003), in which a Generation Starship, whose crew is profoundly dysfunctional, whose Bishop is a crazed Christian (see Religion) and whose captain is probably mad, encounters a profoundly Alien dead civilization, with terminal consequences. The considerably less intense The Rosetta Codex (2005) is a Space Opera partly set on a planet that houses relics of an ancient civilization, which the protagonist wishes to revive. At his best, Russo represents the underside of the "Humanist sf" whose 1980s authors were thought to focus unduly on the human condition: in his work, it is most often found that humans are ill-designed to cope with a wider universe than Earth.
Russo should not be confused with Richard (Anthony) Russo (1946- ), editor of Dreams Are Wiser than Men (anth 1987). [NT/JC]
Richard Paul Russo
born San Jose, California: 1954
- Destroying Angel (London: Headline, 1992) [Frank Carlucci: pb/Chris Moore]
- Carlucci's Edge (New York: Ace Books, 1995) [Frank Carlucci: pb/Viktor Koen]
- Carlucci's Heart (New York: Ace Books, 1997) [Frank Carlucci: pb/Victor Stabin]
- Carlucci (New York: Ace Books, 2003) [omni of the above three: Frank Carlucci: pb/Viktor Koen]
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