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Peter S. Beagle's Immortal Unicorn Hardcover – October, 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
Beagle's 1968 novel, The Last Unicorn, is a benchmark of contemporary mythic fantasy; here, Beagle and Berliner present a noteworthy anthology of original fiction featuring unicorns. In general, the 27 stories are satisfying and often strikingly well-written. Some horror authors are represented (including Lucy Taylor and Melanie Tem), and many stories have grim and horrific elements. Science fiction concepts work well in stories by Judith Tarr ("Dame a la Licorne") and Susan Schwartz ("The Tenth Worthy"). Many of the tales also demonstrate the virtues of realistic fiction, with well-drawn characters in settings from the familiar to exotic cultures?remote Alaska, the Mongolian empire, the Chinese ghetto in post-Gold Rush San Francisco. Yet all are also mythic in the best sense, including Beagle's bravura performance in his own new story, "Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros."
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Theme anthologies are often mixed bags, and one on that overused fantasy motif, the unicorn, might easily be among the worst. Rest easy. Beagle, author of the contemporary fantasy classic The Last Unicorn (1968), and his collaborator, whom he credits with the lion's share of editorial work, give us what may be the year's best anthology of new stories. None of the unicorns here is cute, some are barely corporeal (e.g., the unicorn tattoo in Dave Smeds' "Survivor" ), others resemble Judith Tarr's beloved Lipizzan horses in "Dame ala Licorne," and the attributes of the rest span a wide gamut. The settings, treatment, and tone of the 27 stories differ widely, too, and not one of them is less than readable--this goes even for pieces from such surprising hands, in this context, as Kevin Anderson and Rebecca Moesta (better known for Star Wars fiction) and martial-arts thriller scribe Eric Lustbader, whose gritty realism somehow fits in well here. A very good choice for fantasy collections. Roland Green
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Top Customer Reviews
Here is a sampling of the stories, starting with my two favorites:
"Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros" by Peter S. Beagle - A unicorn in the guise of a smelly Indian Rhinoceros that loves to discuss the Scholastics and take hot baths? It works for Beagle, who exhibits his usual deft touch at the border between life and immortality.
"Gilgamesh Recidivus" by P.D. Cacek - a grim story of a man who tracks a unicorn through the cold barrens of Siberia, in order to beg for death, not immortality.
"The Devil on Myrtle Ave." by Eric Lustbader - a long, somewhat incoherent tale of a stone killer whose mother ODs on the first page. A little silver unicorn dangles from his nose chain as he goes about his daily rounds of break-ins, armed robberies, and murder.
"The Trouble with Unicorns" by Nancy Willard - A man has his beloved cat put down due to the infirmities of old age. While looking for another pet, he finds an ad for an enrocinul.
"Old One-Antler" by Michael Armstrong - A man takes his thirteen-year-old son on a hunting trip to teach him how to shoot. A bull caribou with a missing horn instructs the father on the true meaning of manhood.
"Taken He Cannot Be" by Will Shetterly - Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday go hunting a rustler and find him at creek-side, three sheets to the wind and reading aloud from the "Illiad." A unicorn accompanies the posse of two.
Immortal Unicorn edited by Peter S. Beagle and Janet Berliner (1988, 398 pages) – When I picked this up, I assumed it was a sequel to Peter S. Beagle’s famous Last Unicorn, but I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered it was a unicorn anthology. And not just any unicorn anthology, but a collection of the most unique, unusual unicorns you’ll find anywhere.
For example, a unicorn of death, a unicorn of birth, a caribou unicorn, children trapped as unicorns, inner-city unicorns, how to hide unicorns in plain sight in the Wild West, King Arthur summoning a unicorn in post-apocalyptic New York, a Chinese unicorn, a unicorn angel, and a talking rhino with an identity crisis. Come on, who thinks of all these variations on a theme?
Taken He Can’t Be by Will Shetterly – Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are bounty hunters distracted by a unicorn with a message: some things should live forever, and some things should die.
What the Eye See, What the Head Feels by Robert Deverfaux – Unicorns hide in the quiet spaces except for the Unicorn Who Eases Dying and the Unicorn Who Eases Birthing. When the Unicorn Who Eases Dying begs her fellows to ease her pain by releasing her of immortality, the Unicorn of Births must face a painful future.
Old One-Antler by Michael Armstrong – A coming of age story where the father teaches his teenage son how to hunt caribou but legendary One-Antler teaches them both a life lesson they won’t forget.
Stampede of Light by Marina Fitch – This tale has a Zenna Henderson feel about it and presents yet another twist on the tale of the unicorn. A young teacher discovers neglected children are vanishing from the schoolyard and reappearing on a mysterious woman’s embroidered unicorn skirt.
Gilgamesh Recidivus by P.D. Cacek – A clever idea of the weary immortal Gilgamesh as he searched for the only thing that may free him from everlasting life – a unicorn captured by the Soviets.
Big Dogs, Strange Days by Edward Bryant – My favorite story for a couple reasons. First, it’s a skillful presentation of an immortal reminiscing as he paints a picture of his part in rescuing the unicorns of Wyoming. The figures of a cowboy, a Chinaman, a Shishone medicine woman, and himself take form as he calls the magical tale. Great storytelling and a clever answer to “where are unicorns now?”
The Tenth Worthy by Susan Shwartz – Where do these writers get these wonderful ideas? This is a post-apocalyptic tale of a brave band in the Cloisters battling the soulless zombies of New York. They just happen to be the reincarnations of King Arthur’s court trying to redeem their past wrongs. Their only hope is the unicorn torn from the Unicorn Tapestries.
Daughter of the Tao by Lisa Mason – A Chinese unicorn offers an immigrant girl and escape from her life as a house slave when she becomes old enough to become a pleasure girl.
The Devil on Myrtle Ave by Eric Lustbader – In the city projects, a young black man proves his manhood by murdering a trucker. The trucker’s buddy grabs a gun and hunts down the young man. In this powerful tale of inner city despair and desperation, the forces of good and evil fight for the men’s souls and reveals how unicorns are made.
Dame a La Licorne by Judith Tarr – A family strives to raise horses the old fashioned way, but the futuristic government decrees the family must remove all harmful genes from their horses. The result? All horses are born unicorns!
Convergence by Lucy Taylor – A woman is washed overboard and rides a unicorn to a rocky whore where she’s transparent. Not my favorite.
The Day of Sounding of Josh M’Bobwe: A Read Aloud Tale by Janet Berliner – The plight of an angel unicorn as he helps his Zulu/Jewist/Trumpet-Playing charge find himself on his thirteen birthday.
The Trouble With Unicorns by Nancy Willard – Is that they take ordinary, downtrodden people and transport them to a perfect fantasy land. Works for me.
Profssor Gottlesman and the Indian Rhinoceros by Peter S. Beagle – A Swiss philosophy professor is surprised when a talking Indian Rhino follows him home from the zoo. Odd as that may be, the professor is surprised that the rhino thinks he’s a unicorn, is invisible to anyone else, and is willing to debate philosophical theory. The solitary professor is perfectly content to spend the rest of his life in the creature’s interesting company, even ignoring the terrible mess it makes in the bathroom. Wonderful, wonderful tale.