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Tales of the Black Earth
R.A. Roth
Infinity Publishing, 383 pages

Tales of the Black Earth
R.A. Roth

R. A. Roth holds two degrees from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, holds a black belt in karate, and teaches at William Rainey Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, his home town. He is also an avid believer in and practioner of physical fitness training, occasionally drinks alcohol, loves a good barbecued steak, and openly admits that lifestyle congruency has never been his strong suit.

Infinity Publishing
E-TEXTS: "Trinity"
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Rubert Pilgor, Jr. is the last man on an Earth where humanity has been "vaporized" by a highly evolved, sentient and vengeful form of the HIV virus. Its remaining viroids inhabit him, render him immortal, and carry on a conversation with him. Besides the many biological implausibilities of such a parasite-host interaction, Pilgor's sole survival seems more serendipitous than sensible -- but I digress.

So what does Mr. Pilgor do? Toil indefatigably to preserve the accumulated knowledge and artistry of mankind? Try desperately to find other survivors in order to repopulate the Earth? Go on an insane road-trip of destruction as in M.P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud? Why of course not! He decides to write short stories about various quirky humans and some other less easily categorized creatures. Pilgor's continuing dialogues with his viral colonizers, and his new auctorial avocation then serves as a sort of Pilgor's Progress, a framing story for a number of more or less connected short stories. These range in subject matter from the origins of the Necronomicon, a strange government warehouse in the small midwestern town of Norn, to a 3000 year-old vampire who doubles as a school janitor; amongst others.

Generally entertaining and humourous -- perhaps even zany -- the stories in Tales of the Black Earth poke fun at the Western society, the government, the Cthulhu Mythos and a number of other things. However, after awhile (2/3 of the way through for me) their humor begins to flag and the framing story to show some stretch marks. And the author promises more in the upcoming title Tall Tales! This isn't to say that individually some of the stories aren't well done, but, just as watching a Monty Python marathon can eventually tire on one, so Tales of the Black Earth may be best savoured in small doses.

Furthermore, the tales are rather disparate in theme and their relationship to the framing story is tenuous at best. Perhaps, as promised by the author, all this will be tied up nicely in Tall Tales, but as it stands Tales of the Black Earth is no Illustrated Man.

Copyright © 2005 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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