ENIGMATIC VARIATIONS 2: ICARUS DESCENDING

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AFTER MAGIC

Steve Savile

Illustrated by Frank Mafric

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Bruce Boston

Illustrated by Lari Davidson

Dark Regions Press / 78 pages / 1990

Dark Regions Press / 56 pages / 1990

It’s been awhile, but it’s time for another LD warning. Ready? Icarus Descending has been awarded my NC-17 rating. Sure, there is sex in it, but you know I only give warnings on explicit violence. What two consenting adults do in private is nobody’s business… until one of them pounds the %#$*! out of the other one.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the rating is related to quality; Icarus Descending contains some of the most impressive short fiction of the year. Plus, it is a tantalizing opening act to the two Savile novels that are coming out in 2000. You’ll want to be ready for The Secret Life of Colours and Laughing Boy’s Shadow — judging by these stories, the novels are going make quite a stir in the genre.

Icarus Descending is an opportunity to soak in the thick, sensuous atmosphere Savile creates with every word. “Remember Me Yesterday” transports the reader to Stockholm, to steep in the smoky, blue existence of time wasted and lives spent on the fringe of society. There is a layer of exhaustion and despair that presses the life from Federico, Caroline, and the other surrealistic characters ghosting through the tale.

The title story is heavy with the air of guilt, despair, and self loathing that ties Sahra, Noah, and Isaac together with barbed-wire knots. This is a tale that keeps the reader on unsteady ground, never quite sure what the reality is. If you are the kind of person who must understand every detail of a narrative, you are going to be in such misery. If you can let that pacifier of certainty go, you will be thrilled and chilled by Savile’s work. Even if you think you can’t, make the effort; it’s worth it.

On a widely divergent note comes After Magic. Forget the dark, bohemian settings and jump back to Victorian England, where a medium, a magician, and a somewhat holy man are about to bump together in an amusing collision that gets a bit wilder with each paragraph. Oh! I forgot to mention that some of the other characters are a dwarf, a monkey, and a Duchess.

Sounds like an exercise to assign to a creative writing class, doesn’t it? A quick look at any of the superstore websites will convince you that Boston has long since passed his period of practicing; dozens of novels, chapbooks, and poetry collections testify that he’s been “getting it right” for some time now. It also hints that Boston may have been propping up a major share of the indie press market for just as long.

After Magic is a flirty, entertaining escapade powered by the eccentric individuals Boston brings to life. It is a caper, a love story, a farce that makes no attempt at a deeper or disturbing meaning. It’s a fun read. (Only slightly slowed by the unpolished illustrations scattered throughout. Allowing unprofessional artwork to represent its publications is something indie press needs to reconsider.)

Frolic in the shallows? Or go straight to the dark water? Either way, you aren’t going to be disappointed.