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In A Town Called Mundomuerto
Randall Silvis
Omnidawn Publishing, 160 pages

In A Town Called Mundomuerto
Randall Silvis
Randall Silvis is the author of eight books of fiction. A Senior Fulbright Fellow and Thurber House writer-in-residence, his many awards include the prestigious Drue Heinz Literature Prize, three National Playwrights Showcase Awards, and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Pennsylvania with his family.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandy Auden

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As genre readers, we're used to books discussing superstitions, beliefs and mythologies, but A Town Called Mundomuerto shifts that focus to look almost exclusively at how those superstitions (held here by a group of villagers) affect other people's lives, for better and for worse.

Randall Silvis tells two intertwining stories in Mundomuerto -- one about the grandfather and the boy, set in a present; and the other, more substantial story, about the tragic events in the grandfather's youth, when a beautiful maiden was seduced by the mysterious dolphin-man.

This is a short book -- at 160 pages it understandably stays close to the main narrative with minimal meandering. Grandfather (Alberto) takes centre stage and his deep sadness about past events mixes with his sense of loss for their old way of life, to produce a sobering but very heartfelt tale.

Silvis conjures village life out of the air and laces it with sights and sounds, tastes and textures till it bewitches your senses. His lyrical prose is smooth, vivid and surprisingly delicate at times, drawing you effortlessly from scene to scene, and even the smallest moments become timeless. Like when Alberto serenades his love, Lucia:

Alberto reclaimed his guitar then and very softly he began to play. Each chord was as light as the smallest puff of smoke, so that no sooner was it born than it rose between them, trembled sweetly for an instant and dissolved, not a trace of it discernable to any ears but their own.
Unusually, the stories of past and present are not kept in separate blocks of text in this book. The narrative moves from one time frame to the other with no other warning than a change of paragraph. But Silvis uses a clever naming convention to keep the strands distinct, making it very easy to follow while achieving an integrated feel between the two stories.

Sitting on the border with mainstream fiction, there's not a strong sense of fantasy in Mundomuerto so don't be expecting heroes, dragons or magecraft in this slim volume. Instead, there's an atmospheric and quiet tragedy played out here that's beautifully written and gently haunting.

Copyright © 2007 Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and a combination interviewer/reviewer for SFSite.com and UKSFBookNews.net. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.


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