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book reviews by Althea


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The Stuff of Dreams: The Weird Stories of Edward Lucas White

The Stuff of Dreams: The Weird Stories of Edward Lucas White
The Stuff of Dreams: The Weird Stories of Edward Lucas White by Edward Lucas White

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fans may wish to be aware that this collection is nearly the same as White’s collection, “Lukundoo,” with the exception of two ‘swaps.’

*** The House of the Nightmare
Classic ghost story. After an auto accident, a stranded motorist encounters an odd boy who allows him to stay in his home overnight. The next day, after finding a mechanic, an eerie – but utterly predictable – revelation ends the tale.

*** The Flambeau Bracket
In an Italian Renaissance setting, an experienced duellist tells the tale of what led him to kill his first opponent. Some nicely horrific moments, but the story ends abruptly, with some plot holes and unanswered questions that kept it from being wholly satisfying.

*** Amina
Rhode Island is quite different from Persia. New to a diplomatic posting in this hot desert land, a young New Englander chafes at the restrictions placed on him in his new job, and one day, against advice, decides to go for a solitary walk. When he meets an unusually bare-headed, barefooted woman in an isolated location, he will finally learn what it is that both his colleagues and the local residents kept warning him about.
(One fascinating aside: “He remarked the un-European posture of her feet, not at all turned out, but with the inner lines parallel”… Who knew that walking pigeon-toed was considered to be “European”!?!?)

*** The Message on the Slate
Although she’s known for her intelligence and rationality, a dream drives a woman to do something utterly out of character for her – to consult a clairvoyant. Her unhappy marriage, she believes, has something to do with the burial of her husband’s first wife. Since the funeral, the man’s been no more than a ghost of the young man she once knew – and insistently loved.
There’s a good story here, but the telling of it is a bit unnecessarily long-winded.

**** Lukundoo
An old-fashioned, but effectively creepy tale. A group of anthropologists in search of unknown tribes in ‘deepest, darkest’ Africa unexpectedly encounters an old colleague – who has fallen victim to a grotesque curse.
Fairly certain I’d read this one before, long ago.
(view spoiler)

I would have to agree. The victim, Stone, also specifies that the curse was not laid on him from ‘without,’ but that it emanates from within his bones, which is why he has no hope of it being lifted. The poison that has ruined his life is within, part of his character, and he has taken that poison, and the knowledge of the people he has wronged and the ill deeds he has done, to Africa with him. Yes, his evil ‘demons’ manifest in a way that is “appropriate” to the setting, but I don’t think that the reader is supposed to believe that a native shaman is responsible. Although certainly the story references and owes much to the genre involving fear of “primitive witchcraft,” it’s more about how people are unable to escape their own natures. (hide spoiler)]

*** The Pig-skin Belt
This one is more of historical interest than entertainment value, due to the casual racism displayed here. Sure, it’s undoubtedly accurately reflective of the attitudes of the time and place portrayed (the American South) but it is present to such a degree that it will likely make most modern readers uncomfortable.
After a lengthy time away, a man returns to his hometown, and hires an old schoolmate to help him buy an estate. However, he’s become strangely eccentric. He refuses to sleep indoors or attend social events at others’ homes, and he’s disturbingly insistent on constantly wearing a brace of pistols – loaded with silver bullets. Has he become mentally ill – or is there a valid reason for these quirks?

*** The Song of the Sirens
A deaf seaman tells a sailor’s tale of a tragic encounter with those Sirens of Greek myth, which he claims are all too real. And indeed, his encounter, deaf though he is, seems to have changed him…
The story’s not bad, but I love reading older fiction for the little throwaway bits likes this:
“How do you pronounce, D-u-m-a-s?” he inquired?
“I am no Frenchman,” I told him, “but Dumás is pretty close to it.”
“That’s what I said,” he shouted, “and they all laughed at me and said, ‘Doomus, ye damn fool.’ Have you any of his books?”

**** The Picture Puzzle
After their young daughter disappears; kidnapped, a couple subsumes their grief in an all-consuming obsession with jigsaw puzzles. The mindless activity helps keep them distracted from their loss. But then, the girl’s mother develops a manic belief that her daughter will be home for Christmas. Her husband fears she is going mad – but then, the encounter a strange puzzle. In it, each sees a picture that reveals a clue that the other cannot understand.
The resolution is sweet – almost saccharine – and there’s one unnecessary insult to immigrants that was a real speed-bump to the reading experience – but I couldn’t help really enjoying this heartwarming Christmas story with an eerie twist.

*** The Snout
Upon encountering an old acquaintance while visiting the zoo, a young man is overcome by shock and collapses. When he recovers, this is the tale he tells. He has recently been released from jail for his part in a burglary/heist gone bad. He was recruited by two acquaintances to take part in the crime: a robbery of a reclusive and fabulously wealthy heir. But what he encounters in the commission of the crime is most peculiar – and yes, related to the beginning of the story.

*** Sorcery Island
Very dreamlike feel to this one. A man finds himself stranded on a tropical island. His solo biplane is aflame, and he has no memory of how he came to land on this island. By odd coincidence, the island is owned and its villages ‘managed’ by an old classmate of his, who was known for being eccentric, even as a boy. The island is now some sort of odd combination of wildlife refuge and James-Bond-villain-esque fortress/retreat. The stranded aviator is given every comfort – even luxury – but his old acquaintance seems to be in no hurry to offer him a means of getting home. And the longer he stays, the more he suspects that something ominous lies beneath the facade of this seeming paradise island.

Azrael
A poem.

The Ghoula
A poem (really liked this one). Relates to the earlier story ‘Amina’ – but from the opposite perspective.

Edward Lucas White on Dreams
A bit of writing or writing, formerly published as introductory material or Afterwords to some of the stories included here.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Dover publication for a copy of this book, and allowing me to become more familiar with this author. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

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Fellside – MR Carey ****

Fellside
Fellside by M.R. Carey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After ‘The Girl With All the Gifts’ this was a highly anticipated release. Like that book, it’s very compellingly written – early on in the book, I said to myself, “Well, I think it doesn’t really matter WHAT Carey’s writing about, if he writes it, I will enjoy reading it.”

Admittedly, the topic/setting here is not as ‘up my alley’ as ‘The Girl With All the Gifts’ is. I love weird futuristic dystopias to death, and while I also enjoy ghost stories, this leans more towards ‘contemporary British prison drama that happens to contain a ghost’ rather than towards being a classic horror story.

Fellside’s the name of the prison. Sentenced to reside there is Jess Moulson. Jess is a junkie whose no-good boyfriend got her deeper and deeper into her addiction – until one tragic night. While she was strung out on dope, Jess’ house burned down, killing a young boy who was her neighbor – and ironically, the only person in the building that Jess had warm feelings for. Although Jess can remember barely anything about what actually happened the night of the fire, the courts judge that it was intentional arson on Jess’ part, and she’s convicted of the murder of the boy. Along the way, the crime becomes a high-profile case, and she’s vilified by the press and the public.

This, I thought, was the weakest part of the book. Maybe England is a bit different from the USA, but the whole thing seemed like a rather typical, unremarkable, sordid incident. Here, a junkie causing a fire that killed someone in a low-income area might make the paper – once. It might be considered manslaughter, at the worst. And no one would pay much attention. A lot of the book rides on Jess’ guilt – both her personal guilt at her culpability, and that which is presumed to be hers by others – and I just wasn’t feeling it. I think the book might’ve worked better if Jess had been portrayed as a much more horrible person; but the author is careful throughout to give the reader room to be sympathetic toward her.

Once in prison, wracked by guilt and depression, Jess decides to kill herself through a hunger strike. In her extremity, a ghostly presence makes contact with her – and believing that perhaps she might be able to do something to ease the spirit of the boy she killed gives her a new reason for living… But first, she’ll have to survive Fellside – where beatings and even murders are common, criminal schemes are everywhere, and the employees are just as crooked as their wards.
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The Purple Cloud – MP Shiel *

The Purple Cloud
The Purple Cloud by M.P. Shiel

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Stories from this time period love having some sort of introductory framing device. This one has to be the most convoluted I’ve encountered: the author tells us that he has received a letter from a dying friend, a hypnotist. Accompanying the letter was a notebook, which the hypnotist says contains a transcription of the trances of one of his patients. While in trance, the patient psychically travels in time, but rather than directly observing events, reads manuscripts. This story is a manuscript she ‘read’ while her consciousness was cast into the future. The future manuscript is the account set down by a member of an expedition which hoped to be first to reach the Pole…

After the introductory bit…

The first quarter of the book is a Polar Expedition narrative. A significant award has been offered to the first man – and the first man only – to reach the Pole. For some reason, there’s no discussion of the possibility of a team agreeing to share the reward. So – the conniving and backstabbing involved in positioning to be first is significant. Meanwhile, a preacher rails against the endeavor, saying that God does not intend Man to plumb these mysteries. And of course, once they set forth, there are the normal, but terrible, rigors of travelling through the polar regions. Only one man will survive…
I found this first part of the book to be quite entertaining… and also historically illuminating into the attitudes of the time, when the North Pole had not yet been attained, and the popular consciousness was filled with the ongoing efforts.

When the sole survivor makes his lone way back from the Pole, it is only to discover that while he was alone in the arctic regions, some terrible disaster has struck. First he discovers the odd corpses of animals… and smells a strange odor. Gradually, the reality sets in: nothing alive is to be found.
This middle half of the book is EXTREMELY similar to Mary Shelley’s ‘The Last Man,’ (https://www.goodreads.com/review/edit…), which was published in 1826. (‘The Purple Cloud’ came out in 1901.) I freely admit that I found ‘The Last Man’ to be overly lengthy, overly detailed, and ultimately tedious, as it recounted the solitary wanderings of the titular character. This section of ‘The Purple Cloud’ is similarly lengthy, detailed and tedious, and shares the ‘travelogue’-like quality of the narrative with the earlier work – but with the addition of repeated assumptions of Western cultural superiority. In addition, the main character – never a ‘good’ person to start with, goes mad. While insanity brought on by solitude is believable, the character’s state of mind isn’t really all that well drawn, and rather than being drawn into his madness, I ended up just finding his courses of action peculiar and baffling. From a technical/logistical standpoint, the events are preposterous to the point of being absurd. Still, while flawed, this part of the book was interesting.

The last quarter of the book brings it down to one star.
(Possible Spoilers Ahead… if you don’t want to know where the book goes from here, don’t read on…)

(view spoiler)

And that’s it… it never comes back around to the framing device or makes any commentary on it.

Apparently, there is more than one version of this novel. From the wiki:

“The novel exists in three distinct texts. It was first published as a serial, with illustrations by J. J. Cameron, in The Royal Magazine, Vol V, #27-#30, Vol VI, #31-32, January – June, 1901. This is the shortest version, and was photo-offset in Volume I of A. Reynolds Morse’s monumental series, The Works of M. P. Shiel (1979–1983).[3]

The original book text was published in London by Chatto & Windus in September 1901. This is the longest version, and is considered by many to be the preferred text.[4][5] The 1901 text was reprinted in London by Tartarus Press in 2004 in a superb edition with all the Cameron illustrations from the serial and a new Introduction by Brian Stableford.[6] Hippocampus Press included the 1901 text, but without the illustrations, in an omnibus volume, The House of Sounds and Others, edited by S. T. Joshi (2005).[7][8][9] The 1901 text was also used in the edition published in 2012 in the Penguin Classics series with a new Introduction by John Sutherland.[10]

Shiel revised the novel in the 1920s, by tightening the language, rather than changing the plot. This version was first published in London by Victor Gollancz Ltd. (1929), and in New York by Vanguard Press (1930).[11] This, the final version, was the text most commonly reprinted in numerous subsequent editions.”

I’m not sure which version I read (the free-on-Amazon one: https://www.amazon.com/Purple-Cloud-M…), but it was very long, and non-illustrated.

Read for Post-Apocalyptic Book Club.

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Admiral – Sean Danker ****

Admiral
Admiral by Sean Danker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Admiral’ is a thoroughly enjoyable military space adventure. For whatever reason, it’s been a while since I’ve found a pure science-fiction adventure that I’ve really enjoyed. This novel breaks that ‘meh’ streak in a no-holds-barred way!

Reminiscent of ‘Alien,’ it would also translate well to the big screen.

The ‘Admiral’ of the title is the narrator. Waking from coldsleep, he finds himself aboard an empty, abandoned spacecraft, accompanied only by a small team of three untested ensigns. The trainees have serious doubts about the credentials of the Admiral, who chooses to remain anonymous. His insistence on keeping some information close to his chest extends not just to the other characters, but to the reader. I see that some reviewers found this frustrating, but I think it actually worked very well. The way things eventually play out justifies the author’s decision and fits with the character that he created.

Unable or unwilling to reveal his identity to his new crewmates, the Admiral may or may not be who he says he is. But whether or not he is an enemy spy, or any of a number of other possibilities, he does seem to have the leadership skills and experience needed to bring them together as a team. Although under suspicion, he’s their only chance of survival, and their best chance of figuring out what on earth (or rather, in space) happened to the ship, and where in the galaxy they might be.

As they figure out more details of their situation, things go from bad to worse… and it’ll take both ingenuity and luck to make it through.

The detailed descriptions of the variety of technical ‘fixes’ needed to make it through one crisis after another may remind some of ‘The Martian’ – however, unlike that book, this story has excellent pacing, great suspense/tension, and never gets bogged down in lame and unfunny jokes.

Highly recommended for sci-fi fans.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.
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Street Magicks – Paula Guran, ed.

Street Magicks
Street Magicks by Paula Guran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*** “Freewheeling” by Charles de Lint
Older story – I’d previously read it in ‘Dreams Underfoot.’ (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…) It’s not bad, but I feel like I re-read it mostly through inertia. In this one, de Lint’s recurring character Jilly Coppercorn tries to look out for a mentally disabled young man who’s suspected of being part of a bike thieving ring by the local police. Sadly believable, with an ambiguous touch of magic.

**** “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch
A MUST for anyone who’s a fan of Lynch’s ‘Gentleman Bastard’ series. Although it’s an unconnected story, the themes and the sense of humor are the same. A ‘retired’ infamous thief is blackmailed by a wizard into an improbable heist: she is tasked with stealing a street. Yes, a city street. It’s a short street, admittedly, but it’s full of homes, commerce and passers-by. How will this be accomplished? Well, first, she has to gather her old gang and get them to help…
Clever and entertaining.

***** “Caligo Lane” by Ellen Klages
Interesting. I read this just about exactly a year ago, and gave it three stars. At the time, I said:
“”The secret of ori-kami is that a single sheet of paper can be folded in a nearly infinite variety of patterns, each resulting in a different transformation of the available space. Given any two points, it is possible to fold a line that connects them.”
Franny, a woman of San Francisco, does magic using ‘ori-kami.’ Nice, but mood overshadows plot in this piece.”
Upon re-reading, I’m giving it 5 stars. I’m not sure why I didn’t fully appreciate it last time. Yes, the mood and the setting is of primary importance in this piece, but this time, it just worked for me perfectly. I felt myself transported to this wizard’s foggy, beautiful San Francisco home, and found her quest heartbreakingly sad.

*** “Socks” by Delia Sherman
Previously read in ‘The Essential Bordertown,” back in 1999.
At a flophouse where a group of misfit kids, including one girl known derisively as ‘Socks,’ has found a degree of safety and protection, a new girl comes into the fold. Tough-talking and damaged, she’s full of unlikely stories about her mother being a runaway princess of Elfland. But more of her tales might be true than one might guess, and she could help Socks heal, in more ways than one.
I found this a bit more heavy-handed upon re-reading than I think I did the first time around. I think it might mostly be that I’m just not the right age for the ‘Bordertown’ tales anymore… they were more meaningful to me than nearly anything when I first discovered them, back in 1986.

*** “Painted Birds and Shivered Bones” by Kat Howard
Eccentric New York City artist keeps thinking she sees a man turning into a bird – and she’s right. After a thousand years of suffering under a wizard’s curse, the afflicted man hopes that her art might be able to set him free. The story had some nice moments, but at several points I felt like it was trying too hard to be poetic and/or hip.

***** “The Goldfish Pond and Other Stories” by Neil Gaiman
Another re-read. Fairly certain I initially read this probably in 1999 or 2000.
I’m usually not that interested in the whole ‘glamour of Hollywood’ theme, but this is probably the best commentary on it I’ve ever read.
Clearly partially autobiographical, this tells the story of a British writer who’s flown out to L.A. to talk about converting his bestselling novel into a movie. A shifting cast of film execs gradually morph his story past recognition. Meanwhile, he gets to know the elderly groundskeeper at his decaying hotel, who tells him stories of the glory days of silent films.
Multi-layered, ironically humorous, but ultimately poignant. Beautifully done.

*** “One-Eyed Jack and the Suicide King” by Elizabeth Bear
Urban fantasy tale detailing an incident in a longstanding rivalry between the genii locorum of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, played out at the Hoover Dam. (Yes, I admit I did just look up the proper plural of “genius loci.”)
This very much feels like an excerpt from a longer work, and indeed, it was expanded into a novel (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1…), and is part of Bear’s ‘Promethean Age’ books. I’m not sure how well it works on its own.

**** “Street Worm” by Nisi Shawl
Very effectively done YA story; in theme if not in details it reminded me a lot of the ‘Bordertown’ series, actually. It’s got that whole growing up/you are special/parents don’t understand/running away to manage your issues on your own angsty thing going on – but it’s done with a lot of sensitivity. Our protagonist is a young teen who’s recently started seeing horrible, nasty nests of giant worms clinging to the roofs and walls of buildings. No one else sees them, and her parents – a couple of well-meaning social workers – have made her an appointment with a psychiatrist. But she’s not crazy… is she? Looking for a place to stay, she encounters an older man who says he can tell she has magic – but is he just a creepy perv?
The story wraps up just a bit too quickly and neatly, but I’d love to read more about this world and these characters.

*** “A Water Matter” by Jay Lake
Apparently, this is part of Jay Lake’s ‘Green Universe.’ I think it might be appreciated more by fans of the books who are already familiar with the setting, as I felt rather ‘plunked down’ in medias res.
Here we meet a character known only as ‘The Dancing Mistress.’ She’s a member of a feline, non-human species who are an endangered minority in a humans’ world.
At a chaotic time of political transition, she encounters a shaman who seeks to compel her to help him with his shadowy agenda. The blood magician seems to know secrets of her people that no human should know – and is definitely a threat.
The world we get a glimpse of seems complex and fascinating, but the story presented here is a pretty simple “showdown” incident.

*** “Last Call” by Jim Butcher
A quick Harry Dresden adventure. Again, fans of the series are sure to enjoy this; but it’s not wholly my thing. Harry discovers that some kind of spell has been put on the beer at his favorite bar – and the cursed microbrew is also about to be sold at a big event, locally. Can he solve the crime and stymie the plot before the brew is quaffed and disaster ensues?

***** “Bridle” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Dark fantasy at its finest. Kiernan captures the horror and the beauty of myth, in this tale of a modern, urban individual in the thrall of an ancient Irish kelpie, caught in an artificial pond and yearning – nay, demanding – to be set free.
Inspired by the 1904 painting “The Black Lake” by Jan Preisler. (http://hyperallergic.com/wp-content/u…)

**** “The Last Triangle” by Jeffrey Ford
Excellent, dark-urban-fantasy tale. A homeless junkie gets some help from a tough older woman – but she wants something in return. The credence she seems to be placing in some occult graffiti that’s turned up seems a bit off-the-wall… but there could also be information that’s she’s not telling.

**** “Working for the God of the Love of Money” by Kaaron Warren
Reminded me a bit of Neil Gaiman. A boy is compelled to work for a god, collecting coins and enabling the god to gain leverage of peoples greed and failings – allowing him to do terrible things. The boy is not a wholly unwilling servant, at least at first… but not every shred of human compassion has been burned out of him yet.

**** “Hello, Moto” by Nnedi Okorafor
Through an alchemical combination of magic and technology, a young woman has created wigs which allow their wearers to have terrible power over others. She intended only good for the world, but after unwisely sharing her invention with her friends (or as it turns out, frenemies), she sees the pettiness, greed, and evil that lurked within their hearts, and which has been released by ultimate power. Can she stop them before it’s too late?

*** “The Spirit of the Thing: A Nightside Story” by Simon R. Green
I think this one would very much appeal to fans of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden stories. It’s got that same ‘urban fantasy’/’private investigator’ mashup going on, with a very similar tone and style. Here, the investigator is asked to look into a threat being made at a dive bar. But things don’t turn out quite the way the complainant hoped, as more crimes than one are uncovered.

*** “A Night in Electric Squidland” by Sarah Monette
A couple of paranormal investigators look into a crime that might be tied into the goings-on at the exclusive, underground fetish level of the local goth club. More things may have been called from the dark than mere lusts and naughty titillation…

** “Speechless in Seattle” by Lisa Silverthorne
I kind of had an issue with this story not taking the wishes of the familiars into account – or giving them any weight or thought at all when crafting its resolution. On top of that, I didn’t think it was very well written, and the romance was dull.

**** “Palimpsest” by Catherynne M. Valente
This is the short story that Valente later expended into a novel of the same name: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show… .
It will feel very familiar to anyone who’s read the novel, but I think it might work even better in a short format. Lovely writing, evocative images.

*** “Ash” by John Shirley
Down-on-his-luck, a man plans a robbery that will be his first-ever crime. However, a seemingly insane homeless man gets in the way of his carefully (but perhaps not wisely) laid plans… and he finds himself plunged into a strange and hellish alternate city where he must face his guilt.

**** “In Our Block” by R. A. Lafferty
Some strange people – possibly aliens – decide to go into business on earth, on one particular block, without making any kind of fanfare about it. And it’s rather wonderfully peculiar. Very much like an old Twilight Zone episode.

Every time I read a book edited by Guran, I seem to feel a need to comment on the Introduction. For this one, apparently she got out a dictionary and simply went through the different definitions of the word “street.” It adds absolutely nothing to the book. It would’ve been better without it. Still, this is a quite excellent collection of stories, with only a few weaker inclusions. Recommended.

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Magic Study – Maria V. Snyder ***

Magic Study
Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was quite enthused by the first in this series, and got started on reading the second as soon as I finished it. Unfortunately, I feel like I was hit by a case of sequel-itis.
‘Magic Study’ was OK – but my enthusiasm fizzled out a bit.

The story as a whole felt more juvenile than the first book, and was much less tightly plotted. it’s more like, “OK, what will Yelena do next?” For most of the book, it’s just her wandering from one situation to another. As the title indicates, the focus here is Yelena trying to learn how to use her magic skills. That magic is banned in Ixia, so she travels to the south to be reunited with the family she hasn’t seen since she was six years old, and doesn’t remember at all. Obviously, this is not a recipe for instant happiness – and indeed, her mother’s got emotional issues and her brother is hostile and suspicious. People in both Ixia and the South suspect her of being a spy for the other side. And then, of course, there are the people who really do want her to spy for them.

Yelena must try to balance her divided loyalties while also pursuing the goals she has for herself…

It’s a quick read, and I’m not ruling out reading more in this series, but I’m also not rushing into them right away.

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The Dead Lands – Benjamin Percy ***

The Dead Lands
The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This month’s post-apocalyptic book club selection.

At our meeting, this book elicited a pretty universal reaction of, “Well, it was OK.” And I would have to agree.

This is a pulp fiction story with literary pretensions. Honestly, I think it would’ve been better without the pretensions. Much has been made of the concept that it’s a ‘retelling of the story of Lewis and Clark’ but in a post-apocalyptic landscape. But that’s just a gimmick. The plot neither follows closely nor comments on American history. If the characters had different names, even the most avid student of 19th-century exploratory expeditions would never, ever notice a correlation.

The walled town known as ‘Sanctuary’ has become less and less of one since a new leader took over. As a matter of fact, it’s become a brutal dictatorship, with people under the thumb of a madman. But there are giant killer mutant spiders outside the walls, and no one knows if there’s anywhere else to go.

That is, until the girl Gawea turns up, with tales of an idyllic community to the West. Of course, the mayor sees her as a threat to his power, and tries to have her killed. After rescuing her, a team decides to go with her and see what she’s talking about, in hopes of bringing good news back to their community. Clark, a tough, hard woman is the driving force behind this trip, but essential to the expedition is Lewis – whom Gawea says she came to find.

Lewis is a nerdy historian who’s been busy as a museum curator – but he’s also psychic, has mad steampunk-engineer skillz, and may very well develop extra superpowers whenever the plot requires them.

So, off the group goes on the requisite Trek Through The Wasteland. It will be arduous and plagued by beasts, madness, bizarre groups of survivors, and betrayal. And at the end, we may assume from the start, no idyll.

Meanwhile, back in Sanctuary, things go from bad to worse, and it will be up to Lewis’ assistant, a young woman, to try to fight the power.

it’s entertaining, and moves along. On the one hand, though, I thought the varied and disparate references to/influences from various pop culture tropes were fun – but on the other hand, I think this might’ve been a better book if it had more of a clear sense about it of what the author wanted it to be.

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