Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Resurrection Man by Sean Stewart

I dug this book out of one of my dustier shelves after I finished reading A Complicated Kindness. I wanted something wildly removed from my old home town and the fiction it seems to inspire, and thought Resurrection Man might just be the ticket.

Stewart does "magic realism", but differently from other practitioners. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, for instance, might have a character who exhales butterflies whenever she speaks, but no-one in her community pays it much mind, because - eyeh, that's just the way it is. In Stewart's world, an occultic sort of magic is increasingly becoming more apparent in a world that, until World War II, ran more or less by rationally explicable means. Now, minotaurs are wreaking havoc in the ghettos, and people are being transformed into creatures that have an inchoate relationship to the shifting reality.

Enter Dante Ratkay - and his own corpse, which he's just discovered on his bureau. Dante knows more than the reader about the way magic works in his world, but not much more. So the reader stays just a step or two behind Dante, as the narrative unfolds - which is mostly quite a thrill. I say "mostly", because the characters in RM all seem to have an enormous chip on their shoulder, and are in the habit of sniping at each other. If the tone of the story had a little more variation, the book would be a lollapalooza. As it is, it was a fast and entirely unique read. I'm curious to try other, later Stewart titles; he was quite young when he wrote RM, and it demonstrates, I think, undeniable talent on the verge of becoming something truly remarkable.

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