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Minions of the Moon
Richard Bowes
Tor Books, 320 pages


Art: Jayne Hinds Bidaut and Stephen Wolf
Minions of the Moon
Richard Bowes
Richard Bowes is part of a big Irish family in Boston and on Long Island, and has the usual odd juxtapositions of life: compulsory ROTC and fashion copywriting. He claims his fiction is quite personal -- not autobiographical, but from it anyone with a strange interest in the mundane details can figure out pretty much his time, place and circumstance.

Richard Bowes Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by A.L. Sirois

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The publicity material included with this book says that Minions of the Moon is Richard Bowes' first novel in 10 years. I was impressed enough with this one to want to dig up his earlier work.

The book's central character, Kevin Grierson, has been the subject of a number of earlier short stories, most of which (including "Streetcar Dreams," the 1998 World Fantasy Award winner for Best Novella) have been knit together to form this larger work. There is an episodic feel to the book, therefore, but that doesn't detract in any way from its strengths.

Grierson is in his mid-50s in the episodes that frame the main action of the book, all of which deal with his life from childhood through adolescence into manhood.

All of his life, Kevin has been aware of the presence he thinks of as his Shadow: a doppelganger, a double, a second self that is usually not visible to others unless Kevin allows it to manifest. You might think that having a second, astral body to go to work for you and to take over for you in times of need would be a desirable thing. But the Shadow, Fred, represents many of Kevin's negative personality traits. Not all of them, however, because Kevin is a mess. He's a drug abuser, an alcoholic, and he sells his body to older men. Kevin's world contains very little that is wholesome, and that's just fine with Fred, who exists in an even darker framework than Kevin.

Occasionally Fred pulls Kevin's chestnuts out of the fire, by covering for him at work after one of Kevin's frequent benders. Finally, though, Grierson realizes that unless he cleans himself up he won't live to see his 30th birthday.

And so he sets out to do just that, with the help of a flawed psychotherapist, who not only has his own Shadow, but a more benevolent astral self as well. Ominously, however, there are sinister forces out to snare Kevin and Fred, intending to feed off their energies and put them on display as interdimensional freaks.

I enjoyed this dark, thoughtful novel. In fact, I found myself neglecting some things that needed doing around my house in order to finish reading it. It is certainly not what one could call high fantasy, being far more realistic in tone than most works of the imagination. Kevin grows up gay in an Irish family in Boston, and all his interactions ring true, as do the descriptions of the city, the gay life-style and the world of fashion advertising, where Grierson works for a time in the 60s.

Though shot through with the main character's angst, the book never descends into hand-wringing or breast-beating, unlike the Thomas Covenant books. No, this is more akin to some of Fritz Leiber's contemporary fantasy work, and as such, closer to my own taste. Fans of Leiber (and, perhaps, of John Collier) may well find Minions of the Moon to be close to their taste, too, and well worth their while.

Copyright © 1999 by A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois walks the walk, too. He's a longtime member of SFWA and currently serves the organization as webmaster for the SFWA BULLETIN. His personal site is at http://www.w3pg.com/jazzpolice.


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