THE MOON MAID
by R. García y Robertson
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Despite the title of R. García y Robertson's first collection of short stories, The Moon Maid and Other Fantastic Adventures, the underlying theme of the collection is the grittiness of history, not the fantastic worlds examined in the early science fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs or A. Merritt. While not all of the eight stories in the book have an historical basis, the majority do.
The collection opens with "Gypsy Trade," a story about time travel, art smuggling and the Holocaust's other victims, the Gypsies. Although the descriptions and writing are well done, the characters' motivations are never fully explored. Kathe, a disposessed girl from the sixteenth-century, seems to adjust too quickly and easily to the marvels of the twentieth century. More importantly, the ending of the story does really seem to fit the set-up García y Robertson prepares.
From sixteenth-century Nijmegen and twentieth-century Germany, García y Robertson travels to eighteenth-century San Francisco. "Four Kings and an Ace" tells of the arrival in San Francisco of the unfortunately named Boy Toy, a Chinese girl raised by missionaries who has come to the US to be trained as a missionary. Instead, Boy Toy is sold into prostitution. As she struggles to maintain her innocence, she becomes involved in a big con to retaliate against the crooked Nevada senator who betrayed her trust. The fantastic elements are mostly underplayed with the exception of Mother Love, the crystal seer who aids in the con.
"Cast on a Distant Shore" is one of the few stories in the collection which does not draw on an historical source. Part of the realism of this straight-forward science fiction tale is that García y Robertson assumes the reader has knowledge of the world. Although this does give a certain amount of versimilitude to the setting, it also makes it difficult, at times, for the reader to figure out what is happening. The significance in "Cast on a Distant Shore" lies in García y Robertson's rather uncommon portrayal of the role humans have in the galaxy.
The title story, "The Moon Maid", rather than being a Burroughsian pastiche is an historical tale of the Amazons. In this story, García y Robertson tells of a lion hunt undertaken by an Amazon which causes her to come into contact with a realistical Hercules, written with just the right amount of braggadocio. Easily the strongest and most entertaining story in the book, it is a worthy title piece.
"Gone to Glory" is a futuristic ecological tale of a trouble shooter who is sent down to Glory, a partially terraformed world which is in a primative, neanderthalic period. One of the shorter tales, it was not particularly easy to connect with any of the characters, although García y Robertson's sense of humor did show through most strongly in this story.
"The Wagon God's Wife" is a retelling of a Norse fable about the coming of Christianity to the Northlands. García y Robertson does a good job capturing the strange mix of pagan and Christian which flavored the tale, but it would have been even more interesting if he had shown a little more internal conflict in Gunnar, the heathen who had recently been made a Christian by Olaf Trygvasson. Gunnar's recent conversion makes it seem odd that he does not recognise the names of the Norse gods he meets while he journeys, nor know anything of their legend.
García y Robertson's "The Other Magpie" is based on a true incident of the Indian-cavalry wars on the Great Plains, told from the point of view of the Indians.
Naturally, the title "Werewolves of Luna" conjures images of the Warren Zevon song "Werewolves of London". The story, itself, is the most deserving story of the pulpish title the collection has. "Werewolves of Luna" is an old-time science fiction story with supenatural elements, a sort of Astounding meets Unknown. "Werewolves of Luna" is set in the same universe as "Gone with Glory," yet the links between the two stories are tenuous at best.
García y Robertson opens the book with a short prologue in which he has a one paragraph comment to make about each of the stories included in the collection. While I like this sort of explanation, grouping them at the beginning of the book is a little annoying. I frequently found myself flipping back to the beginning to find out what García y Robertson had to say about a given tale. This type of thing tends to work better broken up into either introductions to each story or short afterwords to each tale.
The Moon Maid is, apparently, only the second book published by Golden Gryphon Press, following on the heels of 1997's Think Like a Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly. The quality of the book is nice. It has a good binding and a nice heavy paperstock. My only complaint is that the book jacket seems to be a little on the flimsy side.
With only eight stories, this collection has left out many of García y Robertson's stories, some of which would have been nice inclusions, such as his "By the Time We Got to Gaugamela" (IASFM 10/91) or "Three Heads for the High King" (Weird Tales 7/89). However, The Moon Maid is a good introduction to R. García y Robertson's writing. The stories are long enough to give a feel for his style, while not so long that reading any given story requires a lengthy time-committment.
|Gypsy Trade||Gone to Glory|
|Four Kings and an Ace||The Wagon God's Wife|
|Cast on a Distant Shore||The Other Magpie|
|The Moon Maid||Werewolves of Luna|
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