cover image Memoranda


Jeffrey Ford. Eos, $12 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-380-80262-3

Last year, Ford's The Physiognomy won the World Fantasy Award for best novel. Here's a worthy sequel. In the first book, Physiognomist Cley helped bring about the destruction of the Well-Built City, a technological marvel where foreheads, cheekbones, chins were measured in order to determine the moral character of the populace, and where mismanaged science controlled every aspect of life. Now Cley has moved to the primitive village of Wenau, where he works as a healer. His idyllic existence is ruined when the evil Master Below, the ruler of the destroyed Well-Built City, sends a sleeping sickness that quickly spreads throughout Wenau. In order to save his friends, Cley returns to the ruined City to find Below--and an antidote. Once there, however, he learns that Below himself has been stricken by his own poison. Below's misbegotten demon son Misrix offers to help Cley enter the sleeping Below's mind to seek out the cure. ""To decipher the symbols, you need only read the Physiognomy of Father's memory,"" Misrix explains. Yet traveling through the subconscious of a madman may well be more dangerous than the sleeping sickness itself, for there Cley must interpret a surreal landscape of events, objects and characters, even as they distort his own thoughts. Reading Ford's vivid descriptions of Below's bizarre subconscious is like stepping into a Dal painting. Ford's symbolic view of memory and desire is as intriguing as it is haunting--though the book ends with more questions than it began. Admirers of The Physiognomy will prize this book, while trusting that the next (and conclusion to the trilogy), The Beyond, will clarify Ford's views on the nature of mind and reality. (Oct.)