Readers will enjoy Peter S. Beagle’s THE OVERNEATH

Photo: Rina Weisman

For LIBRARY JOURNAL, Megan M. McArdle praises Peter S. Beagle’s THE OVERNEATH.

In this latest collection from Beagle, readers will enjoy 13 stories, mostly reprints, including two pieces featuring Schmendrick, the magician from his most famous novel, The Last Unicorn

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For fantasy fans, Beagle should be a staple, and while the anthology Mirror Kingdoms: The Best of Peter S. Beagle gathers many of the stories of his early career, this volume proves he is still creating plenty of great short fiction.

On the B&N SCI-FI & FANTASY BLOG, Jim Killen includes the collection among The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of November 2017.

This collection of short stories from the legendary author of The Last Unicorn spans the world, reminding readers that magic, and magical creatures, are not always mere objects of wonder—they can be dangerous. In these stories, a traveler discovers a way to enter the shadow universe of the Overneath, an inventor hears mysterious voices on his first-ever wireless sound transmitter, and a team of government agents conduct a raid on a drug operation deep in the woods and discover the criminals are using dragons as security. These 13 stories explore universal themes of love and adventure, with the trademark wry humor and heartfelt emotion that Beagle is known for.

Artur Nowrot at WYSZNUPANE enjoys the book.

Unicorns are a recurring motif for Beagle (they feature, in very different versions, in three stories in this collection), so it seems fitting that one appears at the very end. Olfert Dapper’s Day starts as a story (a very good one, although a big part of that might be my predisposition to like stories about conmen) – and then, at some point, with the appearance of the unicorn, the story seems to transform into a tale of a man who, if not exactly bad, was never particularly good, and who suddenly has to use his one true talent – lying – not to serve himself but to save another person. In the end, he loses something, gains something, and I felt that he will never be the same again, although it would be hard to define how exactly was he changed.

This is one of the stories that demonstrate what I love about Beagle best: his characters are often weak and failing, yet all the more heroic when, through chance or grace, they manage to rise to the trials that stand before them. At his best, he opens your heart up and, through his writing, makes you want to speak in poetry. And that’s exactly what happens when you read THE OVERNEATH.

TOR.COM reprints “The Story of Kao Yu.”

We’re pleased to reprint “The Story of Kao Yu”, a fantasy short story by the legendary Peter S. Beagle which tells of an aging judge traveling through rural China and of a criminal he encounters. Originally published on Tor.com in December 2016, “The Story of Kao Yu” is now collected in Beagle’s THE OVERNEATH, available November 14th from Tachyon Publications.

Of the story, Beagle says it “comes out of a lifelong fascination with Asian legendry—Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Indonesian—all drawn from cultures where storytelling, in one form of another, remains a living art. As a young writer I loved everything from Robert van Gulik’s Judge Dee mysteries to Lafcadio Hearn’s translations of Japanese fairytales and many lesser-known fantasies. Like my story ‘The Tale of Junko and Sayuri,’ ‘The Story of Kao Yu’ is a respectful imitation of an ancient style, and never pretends to be anything else. But I wrote it with great care and love, and I’m still proud of it.”

Art: Alyssa Winans

There was a judge once in south China, a long time ago—during the reign of the Emperor Yao, it was—named Kao Yu. He was stern in his rulings, but fair and patient, and all but legendary for his honesty; it would have been a foolish criminal—or, yes, even a misguided Emperor—who attempted to bribe or coerce Kao Yu. Of early middle years, he was stocky and wideshouldered, if a little plump, and the features of his face were strong and striking, even if his hairline was retreating just a trifle. He was respected by all, and feared by those who should have feared him—what more can one ask from a judge even now? But this is a story about a case in which he came to feel—rightly or no—that he was the one on trial.

Kao Yu’s own wisdom and long experience generally governed his considerations in court, and his eventual rulings. But he was uniquely different from all other judges in all of China, in that when a problem came down to a matter of good versus evil—in a murder case, most often, or arson, or rape (which Kao Yu particularly despised), he would often submit that problem to the judgment of a unicorn.

For more info on THE OVERNEATH, visit the Tachyon page.

Cover design by Elizabeth Story