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The Gift Of Fire / On The Head Of A Pin
Walter Mosley
Tor, 288 pages

The Gift Of Fire / On The Head Of A Pin
Walter Mosley
Walter Mosley is the author of more than 37 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 23 languages. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy and PEN America's Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.

Walter Mosley Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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There are two tales here, two stories of personal struggles and world-changing, mind-altering discoveries. There are myths to be shattered, legends waiting to be born, and lives ready to be changed. In two relatively short novels published in one volume, Walter Mosley manages to unite the grandness of myth with the reality of everyday life, and the good news is that his characters, and possibly the world, are better for it.

Walter Mosley is probably best known for his series of mysteries featuring private detective Easy Rawlins, but he has also written in other genres, science fiction included. Like his mysteries, Mosley's science fiction is often concerned with the state of race relations in America, and those concerns are reflected in The Gift Of Fire and On The Head Of A Pin. For the characters in these stories, though, life is about to present them with even bigger issues.

It starts right away at the beginning of The Gift Of Fire when Prometheus breaks free of his chains. Fleeing to Earth, he discovers that mankind has used, and too often abused, the gift he first gave them. What's needed is Prometheus' second gift, and his search for the right recipient leads him to the streets and neighborhoods of south Los Angeles. That's where he meets Nosome Blane and a cast of characters whose lives have been twisted and stunted by factors often beyond their control. We learn their stories on an intimate level, and watch as Prometheus and his chosen followers attempt a revolution of the mind and spirit. It sounds portentous, and could be, but Mosley tells his story in language that is deceptively plain and straight-forward, managing to be both down-to-earth realistic and cosmically grand at the same time. It's the stuff that myths and legends are made of, connecting human lives to universal truths.

The same thing happens in On The Head Of A Pin. Joshua Winterland is the in-house historian at Jennings-Tremont Enterprises, a tech firm that is seeking to develop a virtual reality system that is indistinguishable from reality itself. What they get is a screen that somehow can connect the viewer to other consciousness throughout space and time. Joshua is the best at this, and while exploring, he meets a woman from an apocalyptic future, and falls in love.

But the technology is unknown, powerful, and dangerous. The government becomes involved, and personal relationships between Joshua and his co-workers come to the forefront as conflicts arise. In the midst of all the human emotion, Joshua is receiving a vision of the future that is awesome, and terrifying. What he does with it sets him apart from everyone else involved, as Joshua attempts to deal with the consequences of new and dangerous knowledge.

That's a dilemma Prometheus himself would appreciate. A Gift Of Fire and On The Head Of A Pin connect the trials and tribulations of daily life with a grander vision, that of an existential enlightenment in Gift and a vision of the future in Pin. These stories are modern morality plays, and in each we watch fairly ordinary people rise above their problems and their past. That such a thing can be done is the message, and it's one worth savoring in these days where gloom and doom are all the rage.

Copyright © 2012 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson has yet to meet any wandering Titans while walking the streets of Minneapolis. 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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