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Femme Bookend: Canine capers are out of this world

A blonde to make a bishop kick . . .

. . . a hole in a plateglass window. You've got the idea. Lucy Pavlov is the boss of the world's greatest -- no, make that the world's only -- software firm, PavSoft. Beautiful, brilliant, beloved.

What could go wrong? Nothing, until she starts seeing unicorns. And she's forgetting her past. And, unfortunately, all the firm's money is disappearing . . .

Whoah there. Run that past me again. Big bank crisis -- the money is disappearing out of the vaults, to the tune of $800 trillion. The experts can't work out how it's being done, so they call in super-techie George Stetchkin -- who can, but is a raging alcoholic.

How like our own time. And also, George enters another state when he meets two strangers in a bar.

Happens to us all. But in George's case this is because they teleport him.

I've felt like that too. There is a hungover sense to the shenanigans in this book -- but most of its readers will be laughing so hard it doesn't matter.

such as? Well, there's the Australian survivalist on a remote homestead, living in quiet distrust of governments, who gets his first computer. And an email: "I represent the Ostar Unitary Credit Authority. We are in possession of $800 trillion . . ."

Funny, I get those too. Me too. In this case, though, they give him the money. Ostar, by the way, is what you might call the Dog Star -- a planet of uber-intelligent echt-evolved beings whose ancestry is canine. The top dog has a pet, an acne-covered teenage human called Spot.

Boyish humour. Boyish indeed, but chuckleworthy, especially if you love Terry Pratchett and the Hitchhiker's Guide books. The jokes here come out of the characters -- the dog people do doggy things and the machine people think mechanically.

Machine people? Ah yes -- there are two bombs which have a huge library of cultural references to draw from. But not always the right references -- they don't know Mickey Mouse from a real mouse. . .

And love? Ah, love. One of the bombs (the Mark 2) turns itself into a human, name Mark Twain, type designation Dish, and Holt has great fun mocking mating rituals as Mark spies for his planet. But yes, there's love, there's wine, roses and even silver bullets. >Lucille Redmond