Cover art by Jim Burns.
In this, his seventh major collection, Lucius Shepard is as magisterial in narration and darkly eloquent in style as ever. The stories gathered here conduct the reader from the wastelands of the near future to the zoned-out bacchanals of Hollywood, from the fevered bordellos of Central America to the hallucinated revels of redneck country, from the broken hearts of wandering loners to alluring fantasy realms just beyond the threshold of perception. And when the journey is over, eternal contrasts – of man and woman, bosses and workers, responsibility and escape, conformity and freedom – stand in more powerful definition than ever before...
The title novel, Viator, is here published in its full, intended text for the first time – the previous version was some 20,000 words shorter – and is revealed as Shepard’s masterpiece of the decade. Five men of Swedish descent, drifters and drunks on the mend, are assigned to live aboard a derelict ship on the Alaskan coast, only to perceive that they are on the brink of a voyage beyond our world, one of beckoning glamour and incipient madness. Long sentences, alternately languorous and urgent, run moodily throughout the tale, in a feast of metaphoric language limning the perils of a soul caught between anchoring love and transcendent illusion.
And other stories set out equally resonant crises of the conflicted psyche. A mine manager who knows his domain for the very image of Hell bids for redemption, or at least survival. A scriptwriter in Hollywood finds that false appearances exist not only in films. A veteran rock singer, the “Queen Mother”, confronts apparitions with muddled resolve. A town in Latin America witnesses abasements emblematic of the region’s poverty. A foolish man loses his lover and pursues her image to nowhere. And the emergence of a monster on an American beach is not at all what it seems.
Viator Plus is a book of charismatic distinction, one of the finest collections of the year.
Lucius Shepard (1947–2014) was an American writer. Classified as a science fiction and fantasy writer, he often leaned into other genres, such as magical realism. His work is infused with a political and historical sensibility and an awareness of literary antecedents.
Brief biographies are, like history texts, too organized to be other than orderly misrepresentations of the truth. So when it's written that Lucius Shepard was born in August of 1947 to Lucy and William Shepard in Lynchburg, Virginia, and raised thereafter in Daytona Beach, Florida, it provides a statistical hit and gives you nothing of the difficult childhood from which he frequently attempted to escape, eventually succeeding at the age of ... (more)