DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

K.J. Bishop
Prime Books/ $16.95/ 332p
ISBN: 189481522X

Cover Australian writer K.J. Bishop makes a stunning debut with THE ETCHED CITY. Her memorable imagery, voluptuous language, rich characters, and phantasmagoric vision reveal a new star among writers of the "new weird" (or whatever other label they are sure to disdain). Primary protagonists are Raule, a physician, and Gwynn, a gunslinger, who share a history as revolutionary desperados. The revolution is over and lost when they meet up again in the deserts of the Copper Country. A relationship of convenience and survival ensues which leads them both to the river city of Ashamoil and new, more civilized, lives. Gwynn, is an amoral foreigner from the frozen north, a mercenary and musician as well as revolutionary and gunslinger, who finds his well-paid place among the henchman of a local honcho whose fortune comes from arms dealing and the slave trade. Raule, who feels her conscience has been lost, is rejected by the local College of Physicians and takes a position in a parish hospital for the poor. There, along with her regular duties, she begins collecting and studying monstrously aberrant stillbirths. She disapproves of Gwynn's choice of employer and the two grow apart while residing in Ashamoil. Gwynn enjoys an ongoing intellectual discussion of theology, spirituality, philosophy, and ethics with the hospital's lecherous and often inebriated priest. His discovery of an etching by Beth Constanzin poses a mystery for Gwynn that he eventually solves when he finds the artist and they become lovers -- only to discover he has no idea of his role in her transformation. He also watches as a compatriot, Marriot, drowns in an impossible desire that finally demands his dispatch. Dreams, miracles, mysteries, and wonders invade reality and metaphor becomes metamorphosis, matter becomes as malleable as thought.

Still, none of this should deter you from becoming one of the first to discover K.J. Bishop. THE ETCHED CITY is definitely a must-read for lovers of literate dark fantasy. Pan Macmillan has picked up UK and commonwealth rights, Bantam Spectra recently purchased the U.S. publication rights, but the book is available *now* from hot small press Prime. Get it.
-- (Review originally appeared in DarkEcho #27)

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Copyright © 2003 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.