Potboilers, to be sure, but good fun, and just the thing for fans of L’Amour’s better-known Westerns.

THE COLLECTED SHORT STORIES OF LOUIS L’AMOUR

THE ADVENTURE STORIES: VOLUME FOUR

Workmanlike action tales from prolific author L’Amour (1908–88; Beyond the Great Snow Mountains, 1999, etc.).

From the 1920s to the ’40s, L’Amour wrote great numbers of magazine stories, glad to find a serial that paid on acceptance, even when the publication was a little risqué. (Of one magazine he writes, “It pays rather well but is somewhat sensational. The magazine…is generally illustrated by several pictures of partially undressed ladies, and they are usually rather heavily constructed ladies also.”) This volume, part of an ongoing project to collect L’Amour’s scattered serial publications, gathers pieces that likely otherwise would have been lost, published in long-extinct magazines such as 10 Story Book and Thrilling Adventures. As L’Amour’s son Beau writes in the afterword, L’Amour worked under the influence of Jack London, Eugene O’Neill and John Steinbeck, and these tales are marked by a kind of bare-chested realism that is not without its poetry (“I’d had my share of the smell of coal smoke and cinders in the rain, the roar of a freight and the driving run-and-catch of a speeding train in the night, and then the sun coming up over the desert or going down over the sea, and the islands looming up and the taste of salt spray on my lips and the sound of bow wash about the hull”). The realism gets a touch less believable with a nicely plotted sequence of stories surrounding “pirates with wings” Steve Cowan and Turk Madden, soldiers of fortune loyal to nothing but the American way of life, with a talent for operating knife and machine gun, and with a definite dislike for the “sons of Nippon.” Literary archaeologists will prize this sequence as an insight into the American mindset at the time of World War II. L’Amour was not a consciously literary writer, not by any stretch, but with a little fine tuning, his story “The Man Who Stole Shakespeare” could pass for Borges. In all events, the stories are more than competently rendered, and fuel for a hundred old-timey Buster Crabbe serials.

Potboilers, to be sure, but good fun, and just the thing for fans of L’Amour’s better-known Westerns.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2006

ISBN: 0-553-80494-4

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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BEYOND THE GREAT SNOW MOUNTAINS

Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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