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THE WIZARD OF MACATAWA

by Tom Doyle

Paper Golem

978-1-250-00355-3

222pp/$16.00/December 2012

The Wizard of Macatawa

Reviewed by Steven H Silver


Tom Doyle’s debut collection, The Wizard of Macatawa, includes a dozen short stories which show a tremendous range and show every indication of a career in its early stages with strong indications of increasing success to come. Most of the stories included in the volume originally appeared in small press periodicals, either on-line, such as Strange Horizons and Futurismic, or print, like Paradox.  Perhaps Doyle’s most widely read story included in this volume is the final story, “While Ireland Holds These Graves,” which appeared earlier this year as a prize winner in Writers of the Future, Volume XXVIII.

Both the titular story and “Noise Man” allow Doyle to play with history.  The former is a look at L. Frank Baum’s Oz and the magic it engenders in Macatawa, a Michigan resort town where Baum vacationed.  Doyle’s story takes place when Baum is writing his work and in the future when kids are familiar with it and two of those kids recover a cylinder which links them to the villains of Baum’s novels.  The story depicts a magical, but dark land of Oz, very different from the image of the world promulgated in the MGM film version most people are familiar with.  Doyle also uses history to good effect with “Noise Man,” published here for the first time.  This is the story of a boy who has an affinity for sound and noise, which he first uses to build eavesdropping devices and later uses to help the US War World II effort, which not only leads to his breakthroughs in the search of extraterrestrial intelligence, but also brings him into contact with Alan Turing, a perennial favorite of science fiction authors.

Doyle also shows proficiency with alien stories.  “Inversions” depicts an alien race of floaters and Angie, the human diplomat who manages to offend them and create a major conflict before she is able to begin to understand the creatures and how they operate.  As with many of the stories in The Wizard of Macatawa, Doyle presents interesting ideas and situations, even if the writing occasionally gets in the way of their development. The floaters also make a brief appearance in “Crossing Borders,” about a spy who alters her body and is very willing to explore a variety of sexual pairings.  Although Doyle brings the story to a satisfying conclusion, it hints at a broader, and darker, universe than is depicted in the story.

In fact, there is a darkness to many of these stories, which Doyle himself notes in several of his introductions.  The party trawling atmosphere in “The Floating Otherworld,” for instance, is set off by the sense of danger and xenophobia which pervades the Japanese city Doyle describes, something that reappears in “The Garuda Bird,” which demonstrates a distrust of the other no matter which culture a person is looking at.

The stories in The Wizard of Macatawa demonstrate that Doyle is very interested in writing a wide variety of types of stories, often based on what appears to be a varied and broad set of experiences.  Even when his stories don’t entirely work, or feel as if they are unfinished vignettes, they incorporate interesting ideas and different cultures, which creates the sense of other so often missing in science fiction.

The Wizard of Macatawa  The Floating Otherworld
A Sense of Closure Noise Man
Inversion The Garuda Bird
Hooking Up Sea and Stars
Art's Appreciation Consensus Building
Crossing Borders While Ireland Holds These Graves

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