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The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye
Jonathan Lethem
Tor Books, 294 pages

A review by Neil Walsh

The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye is a collection of seven short stories by Jonathan Lethem. If you've enjoyed any of Lethem's novels, you may want to pick this up; it's definitely his style. If you haven't yet been exposed to Lethem, this is... well, it's definitely his style.

So what does that mean? Straight, with a twist of weird. Lethem's writing style is clear, straightforward, even simple. His subject matter, however, tends to range from the somewhat bizarre (standard speculative fiction) to the downright twisted. Hardened Criminals, for example, is a story about a prison built of hardened criminals. Literally.

As with any short story collection, there will inevitably be one or two that stand above the rest. A couple of these stories, The Happy Man and Hardened Criminals, have left me with some chilling images that I can't help but admire (in the same way you might admire the nausea induced by an amusement park ride). But the one that stands out for me is Sleepy People, which is a somewhat satirical, slightly surreal, almost existentialist look at people, both sleeping sleepy and wakeful sleepy -- read it and you'll see what I mean.

It's not an easy thing to pin labels on Lethem's stuff. I don't know quite why I feel a need to try. Maybe because I found this collection to be ultimately unsatisfying and I'm looking for something to blame. I enjoyed some of it, but on the whole it left me a little flat. As I say, if you already know you like Lethem's writing, his short stories are worth a read, but you may find, like I did, that they're less than brilliant. Maybe novels are a better medium for him.

Oh, and if anyone can explain Light and the Sufferer to me, I'd sure like to hear your theories.

Copyright © 1997 by Neil Walsh

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

The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye
Jonathan Lethem
Born in 1964, Lethem burst onto the scene with the critically acclaimed novel, Gun, with Occasional Music (1994). He followed this with Amnesia Moon (1995) and As She Climbed Across the Table (1997). He has contributed several articles to The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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