Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ends of the Earth by Lucius Shepard

Shepard brings to mind Conrad’s dark adventures, The Twilight Zone, James Triptree jr., films of John Carpenter, debauched yanqui in peril existentialism of Greene, X-files, Robert Stone of Dog Soldiers and Flag for Sunrise, and the crumbling fantasy worlds of Swanwick and Gene Wolfe. This collection is even better than Jaguar Hunter without a clunker in the batch. Gnostic visions, other dimensions, time travel, train rides through hell, ghost patrols, and other pulpy concepts are either thrown on their heads or revitalized with dense prose, great dialogue, setting, and characters. These stories are pretty relentlessly dark but so convincingly pulled off that exhilaration rather than misery is the end result. Highlights are the Mad Max meets Carlos Castanada in the “Heart of Darkness” dystopia of the U.S./Mexican border “On the Border(more of dystopia than it already is), Gnostic vision of “Noman’s Land”(we are all dreams of white spiders...ugh), the brutal Nepalese spy thriller “Wooden Tiger”, surreal western of “Bound for Glory”, the various war stories(Vietnam and future Guatemala), the Triptree evoking time travel fable “Aymara”, the vivid and grotesque fantasy epic of the “Scalehunter’s Beautiful Daughter”, and the pulpy allegory for the real world nightmare history of Guatemala in “Surrender”. This book seems to be out of print so look for it at the library, used shelves, and friend's collections.

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