Sunday, March 11, 2012

Two Recommended Books

THE NEMESIS OF NIGHT, Adam Niswander, Hippocampus press, $20, 344 pages ISBN: 9780984638642, reviewed by Jim Brock.

This is the fifth novel in Adam Niswander’s wondrous Shaman Cycle that began with THE CHARM and followed by THE SERPENT SLAYERS, THE HOUND HUNTERS and THE WAR OF THE WHISPERERS (available from Hippocampus Press). Each of these novels feature some or all of the Shamans of the Twelve Southeastern US Native American tribes as they battle, with a growing number of white officials, against forces in service to the Great Olde Ones. These are the ancient gods of Lovecraft whose plans are ranged against the collective powers of the Shamans.

THE NEMESIS OF NIGHT is a race known as The Lieuw. The Lieuw are black, furry creatures with glowing red eyes – underground dwelling shapeshifters to whom sunlight is deadly. The Lieuw are also a collective mind and use their powers to control and replace humans in positions of power – beginning with the governor of Niswander’s Arizona – in order to conquer humanity for their masters.

Over the course of the Shaman Cycle, some characters have been lost and new ones introduced. THE NEMESIS OF NIGHT brings into greater focus the enormity of the foes the Shamans ultimately face and the fact that this will be a timeless struggle that will necessitate a steady infusion of new blood into the fight. Some of that new blood enters in this book; both from the ranks of the twelve tribes and also from the thirteenth tribe, the white man, where the reality of the fight is becoming more widely known and believable.

Adam Niswander has not only entertained me for years with this wonderfully supernatural series and its coupling with Native American Lore, but his use of that setting reinforced my interest in Native American ways and help point me to the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee novels of Tony Hillerman, the Ella Clah novels of David and Aimee Thurlo, and the Charlie Moon/Dasiy Perilka novels of James Doss. Pick up the book of the Shaman Cycle and see where Niswander can lead you.

THE BACK OF BEYOND: New Stories, Alan Peter Ryan, Cemetery Dance, $35, 185 pages, ISBN: 9781587672477, reviewed by Jim Brock.

THE BACK OF BEYOND is my first encounter with Alan Peter Ryan and, frankly, it was a much more pleasing encounter than some of those his characters have in these four stories.

“Sexual Exploration is a Crime” – A lonely American goes to Brazil where he has been told some cash and some generous treatment will score him a girlfriend who will go to great lengths to please and … keep on pleasing.

“The Winter’s Tale” – This story paints a truly horrifying picture using only the tools of oppressive winter weather and loneliness and fear.

“Starvation Valley” – A father and son take a road trip with a short stopover in some kind of Twilight Zone though the ultimate zone is one of alienation.

“Mountain Man” – once again loneliness plays a part but this story has a more overtly frightening and violent aspect than the others.

Ryan has a truly gifted way with words and these stories read so that you almost feel you are living them. I came away from THE BACK OF BEYOND feeling an immense sadness for the plight of his characters in more respects than a concern for their safety. I very highly recommend this book.

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