Cover illustration by Armando Veve.
Edited by Bill Sheehan.
About the Book:
When Lucius Shepard passed away in 2014, he left behind a body of work unparalleled in its richness, power, and sheer originality. In 2008, Subterranean Press published The Best of Lucius Shepard, which served as a massive monument to an extraordinary career. Over time, this monument has proved insufficient, so we now have this even more massive second volume. It is a gift that Shepard’s many devoted readers will take to their hearts. Weighing in at more than 300,000 words, spread across nearly 850 pages, this magisterial book brings together fourteen stories and novellas, three of which (“Aztechs,” “The Last Time,” and “Ariel”) have never been previously collected. Each of them, without exception, is worth returning to over and over again.
Lucius Shepard’s life and work took him, quite literally, to the ends of the earth, and this masterful collection reflects his restless, peripatetic nature. The volume opens with “A Traveler’s Tale,” an account of the horrors that attend the creation of a small community of outcasts on the coast of Honduras. It ends with “Dog-Eared Paperback of My Life,” a surreal account of a Conradian journey up the Mekong River, a journey that moves through multiple interpenetrating realities. In between these bookended moments, Shepard introduces us to an astonishing array of people, places, and dramatic, often horrific situations.
The Hugo Award-winning novella “Barnacle Bill the Spacer” is a powerfully written account of mutiny in deep space. “Jailbait” recounts the relationship between two lost souls adrift in the world of the hobo jungles. In “Ariel,” alien incursions and quantum physics merge in a tale of love, memory, and obsession. “Human History” posits a remote, low-tech future in which the human race is subordinate to the all-powerful Captains. “Crocodile Rock” is a tale of murder and impossible transformations set in a vividly evoked Africa. And in “Liar’s House,” Shepard adds a fascinating chapter to what may be his most iconic creation: the world of the Dragon Griaule.
Like its predecessor, The Best of Lucius Shepard, Volume Two is, quite simply, an essential book.
From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):
“The late Shepard’s versatility is on full display in this superior collection of 14 novellas and short stories… The rich prose, nuanced human emotion, and inventive storytelling that exemplify Shepard’s best work shine throughout. This will wow fans and new readers alike.”
From Locus Magazine:
“My favourite of these stories—though it’s not an easy choice—is ‘Dagger Key’. Set on a fictional Caribbean island off the coast of Belize, a local man named Fredo, possessed by the spirit of his ancestor, the Pirate Annie, faces off against an entitled and duplicitous white couple seeking to strip Fredo and Annie of the family’s treasure… For example, ‘‘Ariel’’ is a twisted sort of love story about a couple who have been tasked to hunt and kill iterations of each other to save the multiverse from destruction. The provocative ‘A Walk in the Garden’ is about a platoon of American soldiers in Iraq who discover a gateway into Paradise (it doesn’t end well), while the explosive ‘AZTECHS’ is an uber-violent story of competing drug cartels and the aspirations of a God-level artificial intelligence. At the top of the heap, at least for me, is the sublime ‘’Dog-Eared Paperback of My Life’’. It’s the tale of best-selling fantasy novelist Thomas Cradle who happens across a book on Amazon, ‘The Tea Fores’, written by an alternative version of himself. In deciding to follow the same journey chronicled by his alter ego, a sex and drug-fuelled expedition across Cambodia and Vietnam, Cradle will come face to face with multiple versions of himself and will come to realise his true purpose and the true purpose of all Thomas Cradles. This feverdream of a novella, riffing on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and featuring one of the most vicious take-downs of genre fiction and fandom ever put into print, is an encapsulation of everything I love about Shepard: the lush, indulgent prose, the large servings of sex and violence, the plots that unspool in unexpected directions and a setting, beautifully realised, that is somewhere other than mid-west America.”
From Paul Di Filippo, in Locus Online:
“What can we say in general about Shepard and his fiction? He was a maximalist, preferring to include as much as possible, not to winnow and pare down. This sometimes gives his stories a baggy-pants voluminous feel, and explains why his favorite length was the novella. He was a fatalist and a tragedian, with any humor being of the darkest sort. He mercilessly and fearlessly plumbed his own life and soul for material and laid it out under a harsh but esthetically contoured light.”
Table of Contents
- A Traveler’s Tale
- Barnacle Bill the Spacer
- The Last Time
- Human History
- Crocodile Rock
- The Drive-In Puerto Rico
- A Walk in the Garden
- Liar’s House
- Dagger Key
- Dog-Eared Paperback of My Life
- Lucius Shepard
- 1098 pages
- eBook Edition