cover image The Land Across

The Land Across

Gene Wolfe. Tor, $25.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7653-3595-1

An expedition to write a travel guide lands an American in a nightmare of mystery, espionage, and the supernatural. Grafton, arrested on arrival in an unnamed Eastern European country, is assigned to the custody of a private family. This leads to his involvement in a treasure hunt and a relationship with his married jailer, Martya, with cryptic encounters along the way. Then Grafton is kidnapped by a dissident group, the Legion of the Light, which wants him to make radio broadcasts in English. This involves him in a struggle between the secret police (JAKA), and the Satanist group the Unholy Way. Grafton is glad to meet another American, magical adept Russ Rathaus, but Rathaus’s escape from imprisonment leaves unclear who is pursuing whom, and the disappearance of Martya requires Grafton to figure out what the sides are so he can choose one. Wolfe evokes Kafka, Bradbury, and The Twilight Zone in combining the implausible, creepy, and culturally alien to create a world where every action is motivated by its own internal logic, driving the story forward through the unexplored and incomprehensible. (Dec.)