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The Moon Maid and Other Fantastic Adventures
R. Garcia y Robertson
Golden Gryphon Books, 275 pages

The Moon Maid and Other Fantastic Adventures
R. Garcia y Robertson
R. Garcia y Robertson is the author of The Spiral Dance, The Virgin and the Dinosaur and the forthcoming American Woman.

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A review by Stephen M. Davis

Mr. Garcia y Robertson has an obvious love of games, and it shows through in this collection of short stories. Two of the better stories in The Moon Maid use cards as key story elements: "Gypsy Trade" is the story of Dieter, a man who travels through time with the aid of Gypsy women and their card magic. Dieter time-travels to look after the interests of Gypsies, collecting art work while he is at it. Finally captured by the Gestapo, along with Kathe, the woman he has fallen in love with, Dieter has to think fast to extricate himself from a short, torture-filled existence.

"Four Kings and an Ace" is a bloodier tale than "Gypsy Trade," but is also lighter in many ways. For one thing, it's hard to get too serious about a female protagonist named Boy Toy. Boy Toy is a brand-new Chinese immigrant who has arrived in San Francisco sometime in the late 1800s. She is the adopted daughter of Chinese missionaries, and she speaks English better than most of the native speakers she encounters on her first day in America. During her first hour off-ship, her ideal vision of America crumbles when she is sold as a prostitute to Senator Stanley Lealand, then stolen by a couple of voodoo-practicing heavies in a scheme to recover the Monterey Spur railroad from the senator's clutches. Boy Toy becomes part of the scheme -- first as bait, and then as a willing participant.

"The Werewolves of Luna" is the kind of story that proves the old adage: the best writers know when the rules exist to be broken. The story starts on the lunar surface with the main character, Ian, just about to run out of oxygen and unable to retrace his path to his rover. This, though, is all pretext, as "The Werewolves of Luna" is really about a tattooed woman's desire to save a group of Gypsies from being destroyed in the atmosphere of Neptune.

Here we come to the part of the story that's been done to death, but that Mr. Garcia y Robertson succeeds in making workable: Ian travels back to the moon to engage in a virtual reality-enhanced game, fighting with a team against impossible odds in order to steal a priceless ruby from a vampire. It sounds a bit like a plot that Dragon Magazine probably rejected in one form or another several thousand times, but the writing is well done, and I don't think the reader will feel bored.

The title story in the collection has been skillfully crafted, and the character of Hercules has been done over. In point of fact, Mr. Garcia y Robertson returns to the original view of Hercules, as opposed to the namby-pamby, politically correct version I've grown to dislike from television. In this version, Hercules not only is strong, but looks strong, and has strong feelings coupled with almost unquenchable desires. There is one scene in which Hercules determines that he will copulate with Aganippe, the female protagonist who is lion-hunting. Aganippe, who has tried every practical method of resisting Hercules' advances -- from just saying No to running away and being recaptured -- tries to cut her way free of Hercules' bonds with the tip of a poisoned arrow:

Hercules stared down at her, grinning so wide she could count his teeth. "What are you doing?"
"I'm putting myself in the hands of the Mother." She felt the rope part behind her.
"Oh, it won't be that bad," he assured her. "But do eat first, you'll want the energy." Hercules had saved the last hare for her -- undersized, undercooked, and badly chewed about by the hounds.
Interestingly, the reader is not inclined to be angry with Hercules for his actions. He is, after all, a god, and gods have different motivations and the overwhelming desire to do what they wish to do, all the time.

I think The Moon Maid shows Mr. Garcia y Robertson to be every bit as deft at creating characters as Peter S. Beagle, with a good sense of story structure and a nice touch of humor as well. Even with the cheesy cover art, I recommend it.

Copyright © 1998 by Stephen M. Davis

Steve is faculty member in the English department at Piedmont Technical College in Greenwood, S.C. He holds a master's in English Literature from Clemson University. He was voted by his high school class as Most Likely to Become a Young Curmudgeon.

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