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Chasing the Moon
A. Lee Martinez
Orbit, 320 pages

Chasing the Moon
A. Lee Martinez
A. Lee Martinez was born in El Paso, Texas in 1973. In 1991, he graduated from Gadsden High School in New Mexico. He has published a number of fantasy novels plus two additional novels will be published in 2008. His books have been translated into five languages. His first published novel, Gil's All Fright Diner (2005), was awarded a 2006 Alex Award. The Automatic Detective has been optioned by David Fincher and Blur Animation Studios.

A. Lee Martinez Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Divine Misfortune
SF Site Review: Monster
SF Site Review: The Automatic Detective

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Ernest Lilley

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Sometimes an author sneaks up on you, which is what A. Lee Martinez did to me. First, I read Gil's All Fright Diner about a lonely diner in the southwest that was a favorite stop for hungry zombies. It was funny, weird, and sure… a touching romance. Then I read Monster, in which a girl discovers she's got powers and winds up with a demon for a boyfriend. But hasn't that happened to everyone?

But I still hadn't put Martinez's name on the list of authors I watch. I read a lot of books and, frankly, keeping new authors straight isn't that easy. So I was already on the second page of the second chapter of Chasing the Moon before a voice spoke inside my head, "Like, dude… you know this author. Remember the diner thing and the other one, with the monster?" Oh, yeah. A. Lee Martinez. I'll have to keep that in mind. Now, please shut up and let me read.

Diana has been living out of her suitcase and couch-surfing for weeks, so she really needs a place of her own. So when she's shown an apartment that comes with a set of rules (Rule #3: Don't pet the dog) and Mr. West, a mildly weird landlord, she's willing to overlook the little bell going off in her head in order to get free utilities, a jukebox with her favorite songs, and a fridge already stocked with her favorite soda. The apartment, West tells her, likes her. No lease; she can stay as long as she is able.

Rule #2, by the way, is "Never open this closet." Like that's going to stick.

Diana has seen enough movies to know when something isn't right, so when she wakes from a nightmare to find the closet talking to her, she knows the smart thing to do would be to get out. Then she realizes that the front door has disappeared, and West's voice on the phone only has two things to say: Don't open the closet; and, the only way out is through the closet.

Catch-22, anyone?

The casual reader will have figured out by now, if not much, much earlier, that the apartment is the manifestation of something very un-apartment-like. True, it's not letting her go, but on the other hand, it did decorate everything to her personal (and eclectic) taste and stock the fridge with whatever she's in the mood for.

The story quickly moves beyond being trapped in the apartment, out into the halls of the building, which connect to other realities, some of which need a handyman's touch, provided by West, who encourages Diana to tag along and see what's really out there. Like most of Martinez's work, Chasing the Moon is about learning to see the weirder universe in front of your nose. The one your rational brain is determined to look past so you don't go stark, raving, mad. Fortunately, Diana's made of sterner stuff than most of the folks who encounter the weirdness in the building. In fact, she's got a knack for making weird creatures feel at home, and pretty soon she's collected quite the menagerie for herself.

Instead of being undone by the revelations about the universe she gets, Diana becomes learns to wield powers of her own, and her new collection of weird beings.

In the way of these things, she's come onto the scene at a critical time, just short of an end of all things. One of the creatures that's fallen to Earth is a not-so-minor god, and he's been spending the last several millennium trying to figure out how to get back to his own cosmos. Unfortunately, the simplest route involves tearing our universe to shreds in order to escape it.

We think you see where this is going, and where it winds up is very nicely handled by the author. World-saving isn't a simple business, and Diana winds up having to make hard choices and live with the consequences.

The opening scene's with the apartment reminded me a bit of a William Tenn (Philip Klass) short story, "The House Dutiful" (Astounding 1958), in which a guy finds a house on a piece of vacation property he owns that turns out to be an shelter left by an alien survey party, and it's lonely, so it sort of adopts him, redecorates itself, and rewires his friends. It means well. A little deeper resonance might be found in Clifford Simak's Way Station, in which a human caretaker manages a clandestine transfer station for galactic traffic in a rural farmhouse and winds up being something of a go-between for humanity and the galactic civilization. Like West, he's been on the job for a long time, and like Diana he's become a bit more than human himself.

Chasing the Moon is different enough from the author's previous stories so that it's considerably more than a re-skinning of his earlier works, but his themes remain front and center. It's hard to look at the world the way it really is, but doing so is the beginning of power, and making friends with monsters doesn't hurt either.

Copyright © 2011 Ernest Lilley

Ernest Lilley is the former Sr. Editor/Publisher of SFRevu (www.sfrevu.com) and former radio Co-Host of Sci-Fi Talk with Tony Tellado. He currently publishes TechRevu (www.techrevu.com), occasionally writes for science and technology publications, and is Interactive Strategist for a DC based association (NAESP). He likes station wagons, road trips, and digital photography and currently lives in the Gernsback Continuum with that classic trope of SF, a red headed heroine. He can be found here on Facebook.


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