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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2001
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 2001
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, founded in 1949, is the award-winning SF magazine which is the original publisher of SF classics like Stephen King's Dark Tower, Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon and Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. Each 160-page issue offers compelling short stories and novellas by writers such as Ray Bradbury, Ben Bova, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mike Resnick, Terry Bisson and many others, along with the science fiction field's most respected and outspoken opinions on books, films and science.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nick Gevers

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This is F&SF's "Special Lucius Shepard Issue," and succeeds in its undertaking very well indeed. Katherine Dunn contributes a vivid Introduction to Shepard; William G. Contento adds a fairly full Bibliography of Shepard's works, many of them unfortunately not yet collected; Shepard himself scrags Lost Souls mercilessly in his Film column; and there is the centrepiece, Shepard's long new novella "Eternity And Afterward," a blistering existential salvo such as hasn't been seen from him since the 80s. One of speculative fiction's greatest prose artists is back to his best; one can only genuflect.

Eternity, within whose physical and supernatural precincts the whole of Shepard's narrative is set, is a huge nightclub catering to post-Communist Russia's wealthy classes, the mafiyosi and their semi-criminal allies in business and the state bureaucracy. Yuri Lebedev is the club's presiding Magus, a crime boss who has, in some grim fashion, transcended the mortal. Lebedev spins cruel illusions for his patrons, illusions that sometimes have the force of physical reality. The story's protagonist, Viktor Chemayev, is an efficient senior cog in the hoodlum network operated by Lev Polutin (an inspired choice of surname), and as such a regular of Eternity. He is, however, hoping to skip the country with his girlfriend, who is one of Lebedev's indentured prostitutes. But the night of his intended departure turns into a nightmare of hallucinatory combats and visionary confrontations. Ghosts from his and Russia's murderous pasts taunt him and block his path; his spiritual and psychological adequacy is tested beyond its breaking point. Heaven and Hell wheel by, betrayals mount. Plot episodes are played back against each other in ingeniously mirrored forms. Shepard's prose is like a furious dark tide, sweeping the reader into and (perhaps) out of Pandaemonium. The effect of all this is simply astonishing.

"Eternity And Afterward," as its title implies, has extremely wide implications; it analyzes the postmodern (the Fallen) condition of humanity with a relentless percipient ruthlessness that genre fiction is usually unable, or unwilling, to accommodate. And it communicates its meaning (a huge one, and hugely ambiguous) with language fully equal to that meaning; Shepard's style is, as ever, positively Miltonic, making "Eternity" a stylistic tour-de-force in the bargain. And Afterward... well, we dwell there.

The other stories for March (also the surname of a superbly portrayed Irish assassin in Shepard's tale, it might be noted) can hardly compare; but some of them at least make the attempt. Esther M. Friesner's "Warts and All" is a highly agreeable revisionist fairy tale, in which a Frog who was enchanted into becoming a Prince must -- together with his virago of a wife, a rather limited court wizard, and a number of destructive pre-adolescent boys -- face the wrath of armies of amphibians and their sponsors from Faerie. Their dispute is resolved with vengeful good humour, with wit well-rendered. In "Market Day," Robert Reed tackles the morality of slaughterhouses, in a manner expressive of due outrage but not very pleasant for the reader. A little more effectively, Michael Bishop's vignette "Her Chimpanion" assesses the ethics of pet ownership, in the manner of futuristic satire. Finally, the less said the better about Robert Thurston's daft exogamous fable "Slipshod, At The Edge of the Universe"; slipshod indeed.

But never mind that. Who could mind, with "Eternity And Afterward" to hand?

Copyright © 2001 Nick Gevers

Since completing a Ph.D. on uses of history in SF, Nick Gevers has become a moderately prolific reviewer and interviewer in the field of speculative fiction. He has published in INTERZONE, NOVA EXPRESS, the NEW YORK REVIEW OF SF, and GALAXIES; much of his work is available at INFINITY PLUS, of which he is Associate Editor. He lives in Cape Town, South Africa.


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