cover image The Ends of the Earth

The Ends of the Earth

Lucius Shepard. Arkham House Publishers, $27.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-87054-161-2

This second collection of Shepard's short fiction is every bit as compelling and impressive as his first, The Jaguar Hunter . Most of the 14 tales here are in the standard Shepard mold, featuring world-weary protagonists, exotic locales and a tantalizing intrusion of the fantastic, which transforms the characters and their perceptions. Shepard's hypnotic, flowing, generous prose, his keen perception and bold honesty make stories such as the brooding ``The Ends of the Earth,'' the phantasmagorical ``Bound for Glory,'' and the moving tale of time-travel and fate, ``Aymara,'' thoroughly modern and literarily satisfying. Shepard has been called an American magic realist, but this label is more deceptive than telling. Though the occasional story, such as ``Life of Buddha,'' suggests a comparison with the work of Fuentes or Garcia Marquez, the roots of Shepard's fiction lie instead in the North American pulp tradition. The magic realists treat the supernatural as miraculous, inexplicable by human logic, but Shepard's ghosts and magic obey rules different from our world's yet comprehensible to his characters and to the reader. The haunting power of these tales, along with the high-quality production and striking illustrations, make this book essential for any fantasy reader's library. (Mar.)