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Gideon's Wall
Greg Kurzawa
Riptide Press, 315 pages

Gideon's Wall
Greg Kurzawa
Greg Kurzawa is one of the aliases of author Gage Kurricke. He is an active member of the Anthropological Society of Greater Jericho (ASGJ) and, for many years, taught history and science at Jericho's University of Arts and Sciences. In a dispute over tearing down the ancient Bringer's Hall for school expansion, he resigned his position with the university and retired to the lower east side of Cog Munge where he pursues his study of culture funded by the ASGJ. Gideon's Wall is his first published novel.

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SF Site Review: Gideon's Wall

A review by Donna McMahon

Many SF/F readers probably missed a small press novel released last September, entitled Gideon's Wall. If you did and you enjoy intelligent Fantasy, you should go back and look for this evocative little gem.

Gideon's Wall takes place during the medieval era of some unnamed world very similar to Earth. The frame story is the account of an archaeological dig conducted by an archaist from the Loraen Isles who seeks the answer to a terrible mystery. A decade ago, the thriving empire of Shallai fell into ruins almost overnight. Now the continent is an arid wasteland, and sailors who venture into its abandoned ports say they can find no survivors to tell the tale.

After searching the capital city in vain, the archaist leads an expedition into the desert to excavate a portion of Gideon's Wall, a long fortification built to protect the Shallai empire from raids by fierce Bedu tribes. Even this huge Wall has been buried by drifts of sand, but the dig soon unearths countless skeletons of men and unknown ferocious beasts. Near them, buried in a vault, excavators find a pouch containing a strange orb and a tiny graven figurine.

The archaist is a man of science, not superstition, but even so, as he examines the figurine in his tent he finds himself frightened by it.

"It is only a statue, only a tiny little idol. Only a piece of carved wood. It can do nothing. But I remember the warmth of it, the heat of skin, of blood--of life. I have seen stranger things, but even so I wish it were day. If it were light, the statue's incessant whispering would not seem so eerily threatening as it is in this bouncing candlelight."
The statue's magic pulls the archaist back in time to see through the eyes of Del, an ordinary soldier given an unexpected posting to the most remote backwater of the Shallai empire. Determined to do his best as an ambassador, even though the empire seems to expect nothing from him, Del learns the Bedu language and culture, and eventually makes a life for himself among a people he has come to respect.

When a nameless terror arises in the dessert, the Bedu are the first to die, and Del cannot make his complacent empire heed his warnings of disaster.

Gideon's Wall is a tragedy in which all the players have died before the novel begins. It's tough to hook a reader with such a premise, yet I found myself drawn into this exquisitely detailed world with its complex, believable characters. The desert is vividly depicted, the people are passionately real and although we meet mostly the Shallai and the Bedu, Kurzawa's world stretches to the horizons, teeming with colourful cultures, races, and landscapes.

The archaist's dignified, slightly pedantic narrative style also lends an epic flavour to this atmospheric book.

Somehow it is no surprise to discover that the author's biography is almost as unusual as his novel. Greg Kurzawa is a pen name for Gage Kurricke, a History instructor, who lives in "Cog Munge", a decrepit burrough of Jericho. Kurricke has a passion for anthropology and antiquities, and speaks seven languages, including an obscure and mostly forgotten dialect of Deghrish. Amazingly, this is his first novel.

Copyright © 2004 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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