Mike’s Prattle


Lucius Shepard “Green Radiant Star;” “Aymara;” Fritz Leiber “Spider Mansion;” “The Hound;” Larry Niven “One Face;” “Eye of an Octopus;” “The Warriors;” “Bordered in Black;” “Neutron Star”

Posted by Mike on August 7, 2006

Shepard’s short fiction continues to astound. Although I’ve been reading the stories in chronological order, I took a step forward in time with “Green Radiant Star” as it’s the last story in the refurbished The Jaguar Hunter. It also won the Locus award for novella a few years back, and for good reason, it’s the story of a young man who works in a travelling circus who wishes revenge on his father. He falls in love with a new girl at the circus and eventually the past and future converge in startling ways. Shepard’s strengths in character development are quite apparent here, especially in how those resonances affect the plot. “Aymara” is earlier but nearly as brilliant, a unique example of a temporal paradox that reminds me a little of Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog or more closely in tone, Dan Simmons’ The Rise of Endymion. One thing’s for sure, I’m becoming very fond of the novella format, Shepard is definitely a master of it. I couldn’t recommend The Jaguar Hunter any higher, I can’t really think of a better shorts collection, although The Ends of the Earth, his second compilation might end up being better (tis where “Fire Zone Emerald” and “Aymara” are from).

Leiber’s shorts in the 40s are generally pretty formulaic, even if they do hint at his future mastery. Both “Spider Mansion” and “The Hound” have the early Weird Tales style down, even if neither are at Lovecraft’s level (nor are they pastiches of Lovecraft fortunately). “Spider Mansion” is more or less Hammer Horror with the science out of control theme. “The Hound” undoubtedly is reminiscent of Frank Belknap Long’s “The Hounds of Tindalos” if not quite as good.

I managed to finish off the latest Niven/Known Space jaunt, which was basically to get me through “Neutron Star” so I could continue trying to finish the big Hugo Awards book. Most of these stories are heavy on idea and plot, light on character development or little moments. Niven’s generally very clever with the ideas and themes, with some great ideas for planets and such, but except for “Neutron Star” itself, the stories are vehicles for the science, some of which is fairly dated today (most of these shorts are mid-60s). Not that “Neutron Star” isn’t idea-driven, it’s just relatively a little more modern.

Finished a couple more Decker stories, a little more in Gene Wolfe’s Citadel of the Autarch, a little more Lint, a little M. John Harrison in The Pastel City. I’m continuing through with the Hugo book with Philip Jose Farmer’s nearly inpenetrable “Riders of the Purple Wage” (which, incidentally, reminds me of how erotic his work could get – more on that when I’m done). And a little Avram Davidson of course.


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