Lincoln's Dreams, by Connie Willis. New York: Bantam/Spectra. First paperback edition. 228 pp. $3.95. Before Richard Adams gave us the Civil War through the eyes of Robert E. Lee's horse Traveler, Connie Willis cataloged the obsessions of those who piece together the ragged past - novelist, researcher, and MD. A young woman cannot stop dreaming details of the North-South agony that only a participant could know. Two men in love with her want to help, one by taking away the dreams, the other by guiding her to a deeper understanding of the conflict behind them. ``Lincoln's Dreams'' is not so much written as sculpted, a somnambulistic tale of love and war as moving as a distant roll of drums. Whether the melding of dream to reality is historical, medical, or emotional, no one has reproduced the past that haunts the present any better than Connie Willis, whose dirge is not only for the Blue and Gray, but also the battlefields of the human heart. The Story of the Stone, by Barry Hughart. A Master Li novel. New York: Doubleday. A Foundation Book. 236 pp. $17.95.
If Asimov's ``Prelude to Foundation'' launched this welcome new sf/f imprint, Hughart's Eastern pleasure craft speeds it on its way. ``The Story of the Stone'' uncovers a life force so potent it can kill and a Laughing Prince who made everyone cry. Intricately nested plot boxes reveal and conceal mysterious Oriental characters - people and calligraphy alike. Irresistibly venerable scholar Li (``oh to be ninety again'') and his deadpan peasant/amanuensis Number Ten Ox (``I'm only comfortable on a water buffalo'') team up with the innocent Grief of Dawn and the dissipated Moon Boy - only that is not who they are, were, and will be by the time the stone of ``incomparable ch'i'' is recovered. Hughart's fantastic Chinoiserie impels the reader to investigate the ``Bridge of Birds'' scene of Master Li's first merrily Sherlocked crime. Bright and Shining Tiger, by Claudia J. Edwards. New York: Popular Library. A Questar Fantasy. 218 pp. $2.95.
Runa, exiled daughter of a doomed energy wielder and heir to her mother's misunderstood power, is 32 when her long, lonely odyssey finally ends. She is claimed by the supernatural Silvercat, a belligerently territorial tutelar deity, who marries her off to Taharka, a gruffly lovable Beowulfian warrior. As ruling ``mantic'' and ``margrave,'' of the ``castellum,'' they grow into their responsibilities to each other and the people they protect, learning that power can be a curse as well as a blessing. ``Bright and Shining Tiger'' is a perfect antidote to the poisonous proliferation of violent mindlessness that often masquerades as fantasy. Edwards's thoughtful and compassionate horse-breaking heroine has reclaimed this magic and heroic realm for any reader young in heart and hope. Chronosequence, by Hilbert Schenck. New York: TOR. 314 pp. $17.95.
There is something out there - off Nantucket - making waves for the miranda of this very modern tempest. After buying a diary describing strange events on a New England island she roamed as a child, astronomer Eve Pennington becomes the object of a transatlantic chase that combines scientific and psychic suspense with the active salt realities of sail. Government agents deform themselves into Calibans over an alien Prospero's power to reach receptive minds even over long distances.
The lyrically enhanced lives of lovers under extraterrestrial influence suggest a certain mellowing in the author of ``Wave Rider,'' but he spears his usual sardonic quota of wriggling academic types. While the star of ``Chronosequence'' is the sea, Schenck never fails to make us believe that we are sharing intimate glimpses of ships, storms, and people he has known.