JOURNEY INTO DANDELION WINE COUNTRY: AND OTHER DIFFERENT STORIES
Alan Ira Gordon
Xlibris / 132 pages / (September 22, 2000)
There are as many theories about what makes Ray Bradbury’s work exceptional as there are Bradbury fans. One aspect of his fiction that shines out is his insight into human nature and his endless fascination with everyday people in sometimes extraordinary circumstances. It is this priceless quality that Alan Ira Gordon shares with one of the great masters of speculative fiction. How appropriate that he should pay homage to Bradbury with Journey Into Dandelion Wine Country.
Gordon shoots straight for the heart with the titular novella, a story that captures the fear and agony of grief. The characters in Journey Into Dandelion Wine Country are no more and no less than anyone you know, but a loss has turned everything they know inside out, leaving them shaken and vulnerable. Is the price of erasing the pain worth losing the good times? Guy MacKenzie must answer that question, and fast, because time is running out. He can take action, or the decision will be made for him, whether he knows it or not.
The title of “The Bulgarian Poetess Takes A Green Card” hardly rolls trippingly off the tongue, but this is a case where the reader is better off just discounting the title and plowing right into the enticing love story. This short story has received some well-deserved attention, with its bittersweet tone and its old-fashioned romanticism. Put all that into a universe that spans the galaxy and you get a stirring combination of past and future. A potent mixture that infuses many of the stories in Journey Into Dandelion Wine Country.
That same melancholy atmosphere lingers in every word of the wistful “Ritchie Feels All Right,” but packs the most powerful punch in “Empty Houses.” What a sad, dispirited world we have left behind us in the silence of “Empty Houses.” The confusion and pain of the story’s “homeys” focuses in Pauli the narrator and Mrs. Morita, the voice of reason in the face of insanity. Most frightening of all is the realisation of how narrow the gap is between our world and the homeys.
Twisting and teasing through each of these tales is a common strand. Every story has its own haunting wisp of music to link it to the others and to strengthen its connection with the readers. The snippets strike an immediate chord, the way only the soundtrack of our lives can. If the scraps of lyrics seem a bit overdone at times, it is an aspect of the material that cannot easily be eliminated without losing an essential component. The tone a familiar fragment can set is never more clear than in “Thin Ice,” certainly the collection’s most chilling, brutal selection. Nothing sets others apart as aliens as the lyrics we, the Earth, have shared.
Journey Into Dandelion Wine Country is a worthy tribute to one of our greatest living authors, but it doesn’t need that association to stand out as a work of fine fiction. Gordon has the touch and the voice and the imagination to raise him one day up into the ranks of his icons. Read this collection and you’ll feel the desire for more. Somehow, with Alan Ira Gordon you know it will never be more of the same.