William F. Wu

Scorpius Digital Publishing / (November 2001)

If there is a single flaw with William F. Wu’s writing, it is that he doesn’t do enough of it. Once you’ve had a taste of his singular brand of fiction you’ll never be able to get your fill. The time between books feels interminably long. Dig into A Temple Of Forgotten Spirits and be prepared to stay hungry for more.

Wu’s imagination and meticulous research takes readers this time into the mind of Jack Hong, a young man with no direction in life. He is ambivalent about his Chinese-American heritage, his past, his future — everything except his own survival. A meeting with a most unusual visitor in an equally unusual place will set him on the road in search of a mystical creature. To discover what Jack is looking for, he must follow and find the legendary keilin, the Chinese unicorn.

Brief glimpses and sudden changes in course mark Jack’s journey across the land of his birth. Along the way, he learns more about his ancestors’ lot in America and their descendants’ lives inside the Asian community and in the often hostile world outside it. It is a quest unlike any other you may have encountered, a quest that should have as deep an effect on you as it does on Jack Hong.

A Temple Of Forgotten Spirits marks the first appearance of these powerful and tender accounts in one volume. Each story previously appeared independently and slightly altered inĀ Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine. In this collection, Wu has molded the stories to flow with the form of a novel without taking away from the episodic nature of the narrative. Bonus material includes a new introduction and afterword, plus fascinating, informative afterwords to each story that bring the reader closer into Wu’s thoughts.

In a modern fantasy, a magic realism novel, it is often the princesses and pyrotechnics that command attention. In Wu’s work, it is always the characters, human and… other that enthral. His finely-tuned ear for dialogue brings life and tangibility to the most divergent personalities. Even the briefest cameo on the page does not appear as a cardboard cutout, but a multi-dimensional being.

But what of the plot? The quest novel has been done countless times. Seldom has it been as riveting as in A Temple Of Forgotten Spirits. Jack Hong’s trials and triumphs along the winding road of his very personal pilgrimage cast a hypnotic spell that keeps the reader buried in the story. The temptation to stay up all night finishing this book lost out only to eventual exhaustion.

Pull an all-nighter? Why not, if you want to? Or, take your time to savour every word. Either way, you’re going to be so glad you read this book. Learn more about a subject that has been largely overlooked. Rediscover a history that is almost lost. But, above all, cherish your chance to read such a precious gift of prose.