Life During Wartime by Lucius Shepard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's going to be very hard to describe this work as anything other than genius.
Almost from the very start, I found myself slowing down and being dragged into the hellish nightmare of war and such densely imaginative prose that I discovered that there was nothing left for me except to become completely submerged and try to breathe the canned air that Shepard provided. I became Mingolla. I began seeing patterns in the very fabric of reality that might help me survive his life. I became paranoid. I grasped at any and all straws. I grasped at Debora, who was just as fucked as me.
What really blew me away was the way the stories appeared like bulletholes ripping spaces in the mist, swirling and leaving deep impressions that made a whole that was much, much grander than trying to survive the feuding families that had torn apart South and Middle America, or even coming to grips with the immense implications of so much mindfuckery. I loved the stories within stories within stories. We were treated with a dive within the mind's labyrinth, the Mayan king on one hand and the ghost of the conquistador on the other, laughing in insane merriment as they drove a whole world into an excess of dissolution and hate, marked mainly by the burning embers of obsessive hope and love.
My god, what an intense and immensely crazy ride this was. Rabbit-hole crazy. And I had no choice except to fall deep within its labyrinth. It's a mark of a truly fantastic tale when it grabs me so tight and surprises me with tears, anguish, hope, disillusionment, anger, more anger, a seething cauldron of anger, and finally, love. Is it real love? Hell if I know. Remember, I've become Mingolla. Maybe he's right. Maybe the world is completely insane and the only thing we can do is cling to each other, making whatever damn sense we can of the moment as we change with each other, and pray that we can hold a sense of the eventual and far-off understanding for safe-keeping, and that we still retain that last tiny ray of hope after we've arrived.
So damn beautiful. This novel is poetry. It should never be entered into without knowing the risks.
It's an important and brilliant piece of literature. Period. It deserves your complete attention, kiddies. This is no fluff. This is no popcorn. This can be, potentially, life-changing.
I've always hated war. I've never even particularly enjoyed the best that movies or other fiction have provided. But here's the brutal truth: While I hate war, this novel has shown me a special kind of horrible beauty that I'm unlikely to ever forget.
Like the mad-painter and his gorgeous murals that he'd booby-trap to destroy any potential admirer, and destroy the work itself in the process. It's crazy. It's also one hell of a statement of Art.
Shepard's own conversation in the field of literature is more of a gigantic fuck-you to all the writers out there who think they've ever gotten close to telling a Truth. This guy can WRITE, damn it, but whatever he touches, circles, and swoops-in to illuminate, he then shells with artillery.
Fucking amazing shit.
I remember this author from the Eighties being a part of the cyberpunk movement, but that characterization is completely unfair and not worth setting up. He's got maybe a few connections, the seeding of tech and immense discomfort, but beyond this, we've got a masterpiece of storytelling that goes beyond most pigeonholing. He's a force of nature.
I'm never forgetting this work.
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