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In the Shadow of the Gargoyle Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 1998
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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In the Shadow of the Gargoyle brings us the stony sentry in all his expected guises -- fearsome, fascinating, and funny -- and a few more for good measure. This is a well rounded collection, with a least a story or three to suit everyone's taste.
Charles L. Grant's `The Soft Sound of Wings' starts the collection off, but I found it to be one of the weakest stories of the bunch -- it's about an old widower who heads up a neighborhood watch, and... well, does the neighborhood watch group symbolize modern-day gargoyles, or are they watching for actual gargoyles? I didn't get it.
Neil Gaiman's `Gargoyle of the Heart' is interesting and engaging, despite its lack of an actual ending. That's okay -- the obsessed lover, whose heart turns as hard and lifeless as the gargoyle he sculpts, is an interesting character, so I didn't mind following him essentially nowhere.
Katherine Kurtz's `The Gargoyle's Shadow' is a humorous, modern-day jaunt that transports the reader to "gargoyle powwows" in which the protectors of church treasures lament, "We used to be avenging angels. But now we don't get to kick ass like we did in the old days. The Boss has gotten a little soft on sinners..."
Don D'Amassa's `Scylla and Charybdis' follows shy Kim from the age of nine into adulthood, and her two gargoyle friends, Scylla and Charybdis, who are always there for her. There to listen, there to protect. This story was engrossing and somber, and it captured a gloomy mood while maintaining an interesting, if predicable, plotline.
Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris, collaborators on `Studies in Stone,' present a story that is similar to `The Gargoyle's Shadow' in that it takes a light, humorous look at the gothic icons, but I enjoyed this story a lot more in its' utter daftness -- cleverly titled, this "study in stone" follows the escapades of Gryx, a Scottish rainspout gargoyle who breaks free from his ledge and goes off to study at University.
Melanie Tem's `Hagoday' follows guilt-wracked ex-con Eric, who accidentally killed an acquaintance of his. He's haunted by gargoyles, and while the idea is interesting, I didn't think it panned out. The strange, unsatisfying ending left me feeling, well... strangely unsatisfied.
Charles deLint's `May This Be Your Last Sorrow' takes place in Bordertown (the creation of Terri Windling and Marc Alan Arnold). Never having read any Bordertown novels (or whatever they are -- no background or explanation was given), I got absolutely nothing from this story, although it was well-written.
Nancy Holder's `Little Dedo' was perhaps one of the most creative uses of the gargoyle in this collection, though personally, I do prefer a more traditional view. Sam and Jeannie, a married couple, go to Paris on vacation. She's more interested in Euro-Disney than she is Notre Dame, despite the fact she's pregnant with a little gargoyle... or is she? This story was engaging and appealing, even when nothing was "happening" (which was, actually, most of the time).
Alan Rodgers's `The Gargoyle's Song' is about the siren song of an ancient stone sentry who sits upon the ledge outside a lonely woman's New York apartment. And then, she invites him in. What unravels is a slow-moving, but sweetly romantic story of love found, lost, and found again.
Brian Lumley's `The Luststone' was listed as an excerpt. An excerpt from what, I don't know -- a novel? If so, if must have been taken from the middle of the novel, as it has no distinct beginning, middle and end. I didn't care for this one at all and don't consider it a true "short story" in keeping with the theme of the collection.
Christa Faust and Caitlin R. Keirnan's `Found Angels' starts off with a completely dead-on description of Mann's Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood tourist scene, and the scruffy, heroin-addicted kids who live and die on the sidewalk of stars. `Found Angels' follows one of these kids, who is lucky enough to hook up with an avant-garde artist who wants to immortalize him in stone. While I could see the ending of this one coming, it didn't matter, because Faust and Keirnan made the trip so much fun.
Jo Clayton's `The House of Sisters' began with what, for me, is the kiss of death: spelling out all the dialogue phonetically. A little bit of this goes a long way, and unfortunately Clayton didn't employ the "less is more" rule here. Added to that distraction is an almost incomprehensible plot. I read about four pages before realizing I had no idea what I had just read. I think it was something about a game between two sisters, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Wendy Webb's `Smiling Sisters' presents a day in the life (and death) of social worker, Rebecca Stern, in Atlanta, Georgia. Webb makes the most of the dark, decadent, decaying, sultry Southern atmosphere when she describes the clinging vines, the sickly sweet scent of flowers, and the crooked old mansion that Lillian, the old woman Rebecca is sent to see, lives in. Rebecca is convinced that Lillian can't take care of herself, and should not be living alone. What Rebecca doesn't know is that Lillian doesn't live alone.
Marc Levinthal and John Skipp's collaboration, `Now Entering Monkeyface' is one of the more creative uses of the gargoyle theme in this collection. The only science fiction story, it won me over right away with its excellent writing, sense of black humor, and fast, interesting pacing. Normally, I don't like fiction written in present tense, and I don't enjoy traditional science fiction, particularly stories set on other planets, but this one was, er... stellar.
Lucy Taylor's `Tempters' is a fascinating foray into the seamy, insidious underneath of the gargoyle. In most of these stories, and indeed throughout history, they are portrayed as protectors. Not so with `Tempters,' the tale of an English gentleman troubled, then obsessed, by a pair of 12th century Franking gargoyles posed in lewd, lascivious postures. I had not read anything by Lucy Taylor before, but her wicked writing style has inspired me to seek out more. This one is a standout.
Harlan Ellison's `Bleeding Stones' is more a vignette than a structured story -- here we follow gargoyles who are tired of being the protectors of the "Jesus people." They want to fly, they want to roam... they want to kill. It all begins at St. Patrick's Cathedral, when one, then another, and then another of the sentries breaks free during mass and takes revenge on the religion that enslaved them for so many centuries. The story dissolves into a bloody, unflinching look at the carnage these winged, beclawed, befanged creatures could inflict, should they choose to.
In the Shadow of the Gargoyle is a thought-provoking, entertaining collection overall, despite the additions of the two stories (Lumley's "excerpt" and the one set in Bordertown) that the average reader probably won't enjoy or understand. In short, it's a rockin' good time! (Note: no bad puns were hurt in the writing of this review.)
Staci Layne Wilson