cover image Kalimantan


Lucius Shepard. St. Martin's Press, $16.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-312-07007-6

Barnett, a dealer in jewels, sits down at a table in his store in Banjormasim, Borneo, and invites the reader to hear a first-person adventure set in his country's mysterious interior. An untrustworthy white man named Mackinnon comes across a witch doctor's drug that gives access to a parallel world--at the cost of native lives. One of the victims is a local witch whose spirit moves to the other world and sets in motion the events that will restore a balance. Its echoes of Conrad notwithstanding, Shepard's ( Green Eyes ) story resembles more than anything else the recitation of a dream in which logic is completely discarded and the motivation of the characters remains undeveloped. Atmospheric in setting, intriguing in its premise and somewhat suspenseful, Shepard's tale falls off at the end and fails its characters, none of whom--not even those who die--change or grow during the course of the story. (Jan.)