Books I & II

Edited by Neil Ayres

Artwork by Diavolo (I) and Carole Humphreys (II)

Reviewed by Mario Guslandi

Reviewing the Whisperers' work in the Whisperers' house makes me feel like the ill-mannered guest who starts criticizing his host's furniture or the quality of the paintings on the walls.

I'll never put myself in such a predicament again.

The Minotaur in Pamplona is a two-volume chapbook from D-Press revolving around a number of mythological themes, the Minotaur being the archetype of those anthropomorphic characters so common in the Greek tradition where even Olympian gods are very human indeed.

As a man educated within the frame of classical culture, I'm surprised by the fact that recently so many British writers are becoming obsessed with Greek folklore and Greek mythology. Maybe our current lack of the sense of divinity makes people long for pagan gods with their clearly established features.

Book I begins with a long piece of poetry by Brian Aldiss, the possible merits of which are beyond my capacity as a fiction reviewer. In Liza Granville's Dancing the Labyrinth an unhappy marriage provides the setting for a woman's encounter with the ancient myths of the isle of Crete. The latest in a series of similar stories that have appeared in recent Anglo-American literature, this tale has actually precious little to add and failed to elicit my interest as a reader.

By the Time I Get to Egypt by Andrew Hook sees the mythical bird, Phoenix, setting out on a long-delayed, fatal journey. A nice piece of fiction by an author who, admittedly, can produce much better material.

Rhys Hughes' The Minotaur in Pamplona is a short and very effective story where the Minotaur's loneliness becomes even deeper when he's ignored by both bulls and humans.

In Book II Lavie Tidhar depicts Polyphemus' sad decline in a Jewish city (The Fire Sermon), while Steve Redwood disappoints me with a confused pastiche which mixes up the legends of Circe the sorceress and Odysseus, with Scylla and other foreign, unrelated elements (Circe's Choice). Even Redwood's usually brilliant storytelling turns into a solemn, pretentious style which is not up to this author's quality.

Kara Kellar Bell contributes The Mermaid's Song, a rather conventional piece which seems a bit out of place and quite predictable.

The best story, to me, is Ascent is not allowed by Catherynne M. Valente, a smart piece of fantastic fiction portraying the pitiful, resentful downfall of the myth of the Eumenides, now transformed into three old crones regretting their glorious past.

The artwork by Diavolo and by Carole Humphreys (her Minotaurs are truly excellent) is extremely nice and fits well into the stories.

Next time I volunteer to review some stuff by the Whisperers just ignore me, will you?

NB Profits from the sale of these books will be donated to Spanish charity ADDA, which campaigns to end bullfighting.

The Minotaur in Pamplona, Books I & II, A5, 32pp and 36pp, £3.00 each or £5.00 for the two, incl p&p in UK (for Europe add 50p and for RoW add £1.00).

For details of how to purchase, visit the Bookshop here or order from Project Pulp or Shocklines.

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