In Jeffrey Ford's World Fantasy Award-winning, New York Times
Notable Book, The Physiognomy
, the Physiognomist Cley destroys the Well-Built City and almost destroys the woman he loves. In the sequel, Memoranda
, the ex-Physiognomist experiences one of the strangest adventures in all of fantasy fiction when he is forced to literally enter and explore the mad mind of his dying master, the murderous tyrant Drachton Below. Now Cley returns, along with Below's demon son, in The Beyond
. The trilogy's concluding volume is slow to start and episodic, but also imaginative, unusual, and intelligent.
Cley wanders both literally and figuratively in the wilderness as he follows the woman he hideously harmed into the Beyond, a mysterious, bizarre, and frightening frontier between worlds. The demon Misrix uses the Physiognomist's powerful drug, sheer beauty, to watch his friend's journey, even as he pursues his own equally dangerous quest, the search for his humanity. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
Following The Physiognomy (1997), which won a World Fantasy Award, and Memoranda (1999), Ford completes the trilogy with a quest novel of fantastic adventure stronger on style than story. Cley, the erstwhile Physiognomist, First Class, who mentions his former profession only once, travels outside the Well-Built City with Wood, his dog, into the unknown seas and mountains of the Beyond, where they encounter many wonders: omnivorous trees, invisible monsters, a woman encased in ice, and a skeleton from which Cley removes a necklace, only to have her ghost demand it back. From the last Clay receives a seed, which, when buried, grows into a friendly humanoid vegetation creature. Demons, classically winged with horns and barbed tails, constantly threaten. With the aid of a sense-expanding drug, the demon Misrix, back in the ruins of the Well-Built City, sees and narrates the travels of Cley and Wood through the Beyond to death and transfiguration. Too often Misrix interrupts the story for unlikely sentimentality, until his final break ties him with Cley, whom he is ironically accused of having murdered. Ford's graphic imagination is as powerful as ever, but the quest itself is vague and undefined, while the story ultimately fails to grip. (Jan.)
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