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The Man of Maybe Half-A-Dozen Faces
Ray Vukcevich
St. Martin's Minotaur, 250 pages

The Man of Maybe Half-A-Dozen Faces
Ray Vukcevich
Ray Vukcevich was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and grew up in the Southwest. He now lives in Eugene, Oregon and works as a computer programmer in a couple of brain labs at the University of Oregon. His short fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including Asimov's, Twists of the Tale, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Pulphouse. The Man of Maybe Half-A-Dozen Faces is his first novel.

Ray Vukcevich Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Neil Walsh

This book has been around for about a year and a half (published in February 2000), but it escaped my notice when it first appeared and since it's still available -- and since I had so much fun with it -- I thought I'd tell you about it. It's the first published novel from Ray Vukcevich, whose name you may recognize from his many short stories in various genre publications, including Pulphouse and F&SF. He's also recently published a story collection called Meet Me in the Moon Room, from Small Beer Press.

On to the novel...

Is there a sub-genre for off-the-wall, funny, SF detective mystery stories? Seems to me there are enough of them out there now that we could just about slap up a new section in the book store. Well, this novel definitely fits that mould, only more so. It's very off-the-wall and very funny (although not even nearly as surreal as Steve Aylett's Beerlight novels). My first impression of The Man of Maybe Half-A-Dozen Faces was kind of Jonathan Lethem meets Robert Anton Wilson in a parody of a film noir that Philip K. Dick in one of his lighter moments tossed into the near future, only his aim was off and it didn't end up precisely where he thought it would. (But now that I think about it, it may not have been Dick at all; it may have been a replicant who only thought he was Dick.)

Does that clarify things for you? No? Ok, let's try this.

Our gumshoe, Skylight Howells, is a master of disguise, but he's also a little bit on the schizophrenic side, so he occasionally loses track of who he really is. Plus he has a tap-dancing addiction that's out of hand. He hasn't been going to the meetings lately, and he keeps getting seduced back into the all-night karaoke tap bars. Not a pretty scene.

The case involves a beautiful mysterious woman (of course) whose brother is not only missing, but is also a prime suspect in a series of murdered 'documentalists' (i.e., people who make their living by writing software documentation). The author takes a few digs at the lifestyle of such individuals and has some choice words for the quality of their work. I'm sure many people who've had the misfortune to read much in the way of software documentation may have harboured violent thoughts towards some of the authors of this stuff, so perhaps it's no surprise to learn that documentalists are the targets in a series of killings.

Now it's at this point in my review when I realize that I really can't tell you too much about the mystery without spoiling it for you. So I'll say nothing more about it. Except this: I'm no connoisseur of detective stories, but I found the mystery here to be sufficient to hold my interest, and the resolution is on a par with the silliness of the whole novel. As an added bonus, the writing is clever and twisted enough to match the pace. All in all, this is a fun read. Highly recommended to anyone with an appreciation for the absurd.

Copyright © 2001 Neil Walsh

Neil Walsh is the Reviews Editor for the SF Site. He lives in contentment, surrounded by books, in Ottawa, Canada.

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