Faren Miller Reviews Heroes and Villains by Lewis Shiner

Heroes and Villains, Lewis Shiner (Subterra­nean Press 978-1-59606-840-7, $40.00, 318pp, hc) November 2017. Cover by Ken Laager.

Lewis Shiner aptly describes Heroes and Villains (“Three Short Novels and a Fable”) near the end of his brief introduction. Viewed in sequence, tales that “played out like movies in my head as I wrote them” become “a kind of Saturday matinee, starting with a black-and-white newsreel, continuing with a creature feature and a cartoon, and winding up with a spy thriller….” Here are some further details:

“The Black Sun” shows how a little group of stage magicians (illusionists) tackle the vast menace that Hitler already represents in 1934 by tricking fervent occultists into playing their own game – a risky scheme to change the course of history. Moving ahead to modern times, “The Next” finds monsters lurking in plain sight, as Shiner forges multiple genres and plotlines into a marvelously sharp satiric point. “Doglandia”, the shorter Beast Fable, is set in a city dump that could be a distant ancestor to Crowley’s trash mountain. When a big bad dog takes over the pack, small fry like Toby must do his bidding, but one disguised intruder only seems to follow the party line. Spycraft was Shiner’s favorite genre as a kid in the Sixties, and “Doctor Helios” turns his memories of Egypt in 1963 (as a 12-year-old whose father conducted archaeological digs) into the vivid scene for a thriller where the villain is a man as monstrously ambitious as Fleming’s Dr. No.

Faren C. Miller, Contributing Editor, worked full-time for Locus from 1981 to 2000, when she pulled up stakes and moved to Prescott, Arizona (a “mile-high city” not as widely known as that one in Colorado) with the man she subsequently married, Kerry Hanscom. She continues to review SF, fantasy, and horror — enjoying, analyzing, then forgetting all the details on a regular basis — and hopes to keep doing it for many years to come. Author of one fantasy, The Illusionists (Warner 1991), she is working on another which she’s confident will be finished before the next millennium rolls around.

This review and more like it in the November 2017 issue of Locus.

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