Mike’s Prattle


Fritz Leiber – “No Great Magic,” “Knight to Move,” “Black Corridor,” You’re All Alone; Tim Powers “Pat Moore,” “Fifty Cents” (with James P. Blaylock), “Through and Through”

Posted by Mike on December 26, 2007

Can barely keep up with these book posts, been getting a lot of reading done lately. Cheers to the California and Nevada Link Plus system.

The first group in the title includes the final two stories of the Change War series proper and one thematically related as well as his third or fourth novel depending on whether you count Destiny Times Three as a novel. The novella “No Great Magic” is the sequel to The Big Time, including several characters from that book and takes place backstage in a theater doing Shakespeare. As the story progresses, the war being fought outside the theater changes history, including the play itself, which starts to contain anachronisms and makes the protagonist feel like she’s going mad. As it turns out, she’s instrumental in the whole subplot of the war. Leiber was an actor coming from a thespian family, so the background feels intimate, but I found some of the prose to trip me up at times, possibly the same issues I had with the The Big Time.  “Knight to Move” is also related by character and features both a Snake and a Spider (the two sides of the Change War) discussing strategy at an offworld chess tournament. Lots of double crossing and secret agent mayhem, it was a fun little piece. “Black Corridor” is about a man in a corridor forced to take tests by an unknown presence. The corridor forces him to each test and he quickly has to choose between two alternatives and initially witnesses what might have been happened if he took the other road. Interesting, if very old school. “You’re Not Alone” is a book that has an alternate version called “The Sinful Ones.” I’ve compared the two versions and while the story seems close, the prose definitely has been altered quite a bit, in fact the epilogue in the 80s version of The Sinful Ones goes into some detail over the paths the versions took. Both stories are about a society where the occasional person gets woken up to realize they’re now living on the outside and people don’t recognize or interact with them anymore. Unsurprisingly this happens to the protagonist through the agency of a mysterious young woman and as the man begins to live on the fringes, he realizes there’s a number of mysterious figures who do as well and who want to manipulate their circumstances. An interesting book and I’ll end up having to read the other version somewhere down the line.

Last, I read three stories in Tim Powers’ short story collection Strange Itineraries. These were the three that weren’t in the original, overlapping hardback Night Moves, which I own. All of the stories seemed to deal with ghosts and the idea that ghosts have to deal with one’s timeline past and future. “Pat Moore” deals not only with the protagonist of that name but many other Pat Moores, his dead wife, ghosts and otherwise, one of which is after his body. “Fifty Cents” written with James P. Blaylock was my favorite of the three with the drifting, book hunting protagonist running across a ghost in the desert trying to make a phone call after making a choice on a chain letter. “Through and Through” deals with a Catholic priest and an unusual confession. All seemed like miniaturized Powers books with that sort of originality.


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