Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

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Moon on the Water: Selected Stories 1972-1999 by Mort Castle

DarkTales Publications, September 2000
Trade paperback, 176 pages
ISBN: 096720299X

Moon on the Water: Selected Stories 1972-1999
by Mort Castle Award-winning horror novelist Mort Castle showcases his short-story virtuosity in this anthology which spans his work from 1972-1999. The collection is broad in its scope, covering what might be termed as horror stories, literary short stories and even a good old fashioned ghost story. A musician himself, Castle is especially adept at rhythm and pacing, as we see in "Moon on the Water" which touches on the lives of two great jazz musicians living in Chicago in the 1950s, and where jealousy and heroin make for a true tragedy. "In Henderson's Place," we meet an Everyman who is slipping away day by day into his own daydream, with disastrous results. The theme that unites the stories is the exploration of the underbelly of the American Dream -- what's really happening behind the the societal facades with which we cloak ourselves and our society's most cherished fantasies and prejudices.

The short story is one of the most difficult mediums in which to work, and Castle is a true master of the art. What makes the works so moving is the eerie sense of recognition you feel when reading such stories as "Buckeye Jim in Egypt" or "Hansel, Gretel and the Witch: Notes to the Artist." Castle has the gift of the best horror writers: he takes the everyday and makes it terrifying. This is a collection you'll not soon forget. Highly recommended.

--Claire E. White

Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells

Eos, July 2000.
Hardcover, 355 pages.
ISBN: 0380973359.
Ordering information:

Cover of Wheel of the Infinite
by Martha Wells The imaginative and inventive Martha Wells has created yet another spellbinding fantasy world in The Wheel of the Infinite. The Temple city of Duvalpore houses the Wheel of the Infinite, an intricate and beautiful sand sculpture of the world. Each year, the Wheel must be remade to ensure another year of peace and harmony for the Celestial Empire. If the Wheel is not remade in time, and in perfect order, the very world itself will be unmade. A terrible blackness has invaded the Wheel, and appears to be spreading. Meanwhile, the exiled Maskelle has been recalled to the city to help avert the approaching catastrophe. Maskelle houses the spirit of the Adversary, the most feared of the spirit Gods of this world. Speaking as the Voice of the Adversary, Maskelle wields great magical power. But people fear and revile her because of her past when she was accused of treason and murder. Traveling with a group of itinerant actors, Maskelle meets both friends and foes on her journey to the city where she will face the biggest battle of her life: she'll be fighting for the preservation of her world and of her own soul.

The Wheel of the Infinite is the kind of story that makes even a jaded fantasy/SF reviewer sit up and take notice. The world of the Celestial Empire is a beautiful and complex one, and the magical and religious systems are well-imagined. Maskelle, as the Voice of the Adversary (who may not be quite sane) is a compelling character, who has learned much from her years of exile. Wells is an expert at pulling the reader into the story in just a few sentences, and this story will keep you enthralled until the very end.

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