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The Dragon Griaule
Lucius Shepard
Subterranean Press, 432 pages

The Dragon Griaule
Lucius Shepard
Lucius Shepard was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1947. He has travelled extensively in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. He lives in Seattle. Mr Shepard has won a number of World Fantasy Awards including one for his collection The Jaguar Hunter. As well, he has won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Taborin Scale
SF Site Review: The Best of Lucius Shepard
SF Site Review: Life During Wartime
SF Site Review: Two Trains Running
SF Site Review: Louisiana Breakdown
SF Site Review: Louisiana Breakdown
SF Site Review: Green Eyes
SF Site Review: Colonel Rutherford's Colt
SF Site Review: Beast of the Heartland

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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The dragon is dead, yet the dragon lives. From the very first lines of the very first story about the dragon, "The Man Who Painted The Dragon Griaule," that paradox winds its way through the narrative and ensnares the lives of the characters. The dragon is huge, its body sculpts the ridge that forms the Carbonates Valley, and for generations of inhabitants, the will of a dead dragon has been the most pervasive influence in their lives. The Dragon Griaule collects all the stories Lucius Shepard has written about the titular dragon, and adds a new one, "The Skull," which connects legendary histories portrayed in such stories as "The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter" and "Liar's House" with the present reality of Central America, where the dragon's influence is embodied in a whole new way.

It's difficult in the space of a review to get across the depth and complexity of Shepard's work in these stories. There is, for example, a doctoral dissertation in the waiting to be made on the motivations and actions of the female characters alone. The lives of Catherine, the scalehunter's daughter, Mirielle in "Father of Stones" or Yara in "The Skull," could show the influence of the dragon in human events, or it could simply be that belief in the dragon allowed the true nature of these intriguing, beautiful, and sometimes scary women to come to the fore.

Or we could dwell on the prose style, coming as it does from one of the most accomplished stylists in fantasy or science fiction. Upon re-reading, the first thing that leaps out about the earliest stories is their journalistic approach, the stories are presented as attempts to get at the facts, the sentences relatively short and to the point. Things change, though, as we approach our own times, until "The Skull," where the language is fully descriptive, the sentences running on and flowing into each other in lengthy passages reminiscent of classic Lucius Shepard works like "R & R" and "The Jaguar Hunter." When read in succession, the effect is to make the fantasy of the past seem concrete and real, and then moving it into a nearly surrealistic present of multiple, shifting realities, where fantasy becomes the one, possibly the only, thing the characters can agree on.

For many readers, several of these stories will be already familiar, three of them were Hugo nominees and widely anthologized. For new readers, rest assured that The Dragon Griaule contains stories that will alternately entrance, amuse, perplex, shock, enlighten, confound, and compel you to keep reading. It's a journey of altered lives in an altered landscape, where the fantastic and the real mingle in the lives of people who are never quite sure where their desires end and the dragon's desires begin. That's left for the reader to ponder, and in that way, the dragon Griaule remains as alive as ever.

Copyright © 2012 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson has often wondered if there's a dragon's back somewhere in the bluffs along the Mississippi River. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction.


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