cover image The Beyond

The Beyond

Jeffrey Ford. Eos, $24 (290pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97897-7

Following The Physiognomy (1997), which won a World Fantasy Award, and Memoranda (1999), Ford completes the trilogy with a quest novel of fantastic adventure stronger on style than story. Cley, the erstwhile Physiognomist, First Class, who mentions his former profession only once, travels outside the Well-Built City with Wood, his dog, into the unknown seas and mountains of the Beyond, where they encounter many wonders: omnivorous trees, invisible monsters, a woman encased in ice, and a skeleton from which Cley removes a necklace, only to have her ghost demand it back. From the last Clay receives a seed, which, when buried, grows into a friendly humanoid vegetation creature. Demons, classically winged with horns and barbed tails, constantly threaten. With the aid of a sense-expanding drug, the demon Misrix, back in the ruins of the Well-Built City, sees and narrates the travels of Cley and Wood through the Beyond to death and transfiguration. Too often Misrix interrupts the story for unlikely sentimentality, until his final break ties him with Cley, whom he is ironically accused of having murdered. Ford's graphic imagination is as powerful as ever, but the quest itself is vague and undefined, while the story ultimately fails to grip. (Jan.)