Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Demons Hide Their Faces

Demons Hide Their Faces
A. A. Attanasio
Fiction 183 pages (Kindle)

This collection of short fiction for Kindle contains seven stories which appeared in print in “Twice Dead Things”. As a shorter collection, “Demon’s Hide their Faces” provides a good introduction to A. A. Attanasio for those not yet familiar with his writing.

In general, Attanasio writes science fiction and fantasy — but not always — and both can be found in this volume. Two of the stories, however, don’t strictly meet my criteria for either genre. I consider “Death’s Head Moon”, like Attanasio’s novel, “Kingdom of the Grail”, to be historical fiction, albeit tinged with the fantastic and mythical. Attanasio’s character, Richard Malone, is plunged into ancient Irish myth while fighting alongside Seamus Doyle during the First World War. When the war ends, he carries his ghosts and a volume of Nietzsche, through a rough and tumble life until a hobo translates a few words of the book he carries.

Malone’s life takes several more turns and he ends up in Hawaii. Here too, he encounters the mythical, only now it wears new masks. What begins as a war story ends as a detective story and in a surprise. There is no escaping the Death’s Head Moon.

My favorite story, “Ink from the New Moon,” takes place in an alternate history in which Chinese, rather than Europeans, were the first to settle the U.S.A. In this alternate history, Attanasio is able to bring a westerner’s interpretation to Buddhist concepts while preserving the story’s Chinese sensibility. This melancholy story of love and loss opens the collection and primes the reader for the stories that follow — stories that engage both emotionally and philosophically.

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