Something New Under the Sun?

Peter S. Beagle, We Never Talk About My Brother. San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 2009. 219pgs

My leisure reading has been, for a very long time, focused largely on the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. There are some exceptions, naturally, but at least 90%, if not more, falls into this category. As such, I have reached a point, several times now, of despair. I often wonder if I've read all the really good authors and must now settle for passable entertainment at best. My despair rarely grows too deep though; I usually find another good author before too long. In this case, the man who has lifted the fog is Peter S. Beagle. I feel like I've found something new under the sun. Of course, this is not actually the case. The reality is that Beagle has been writing since 1958, and his most famous novel, The Last Unicorn, is on many lists of "top 10 best fantasy books" and the like (and on my short list of fiction to read soon). How I missed him for so long is beyond me, but there you go.

Anyway, this book is a collection of short stories. No common theme, nothing like that, just short stories. Most of them are highly engaging and extremely well written, though the quality does vary from story to story. What stands out the most, in my mind, is the sheer variety of characters that Beagle is able to successfully write to life. I 'felt' (knew? inhabited?) his characters more in 30 pages than I do in some 300 page novels by less talented and less able authors. On top of that, Beagle engages with some fairly deep themes, like forgiveness, guilt, and family struggles, as well as bringing some new ideas to the table. He writes about an angel visiting an aging artist, a newscaster who becomes famous by being able to create disasters through speech, a poem about capturing a unicorn, and much more.

I deeply hope that his novels turn out to be as good, or better, than his short stories, and I look forward to reading more. As for this book, I recommend it to pretty much anyone who likes reading. You don't have to like fantasy to enjoy this; you just have to enjoy a good story.


Thomas said...

Have you ever read A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay? It's wack(ed) but said to have influenced C. S. Lewis' Space Trilogy. You can definitely see the general similarity but Lewis can actually write. Anyway it's the last sf novel I read.

Andrew said...

I haven't, but I will :) Is it the last SF novel you read because it turned you off of SF or just that it happens to be?