Fantastical THE OVERNEATH is a beautiful introduction to Peter S. Beagle
Even more praise for Peter S. Beagle’s THE OVERNEATH.
Photo: Rina Weisman
For WASHINGTON INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF BOOKS, Katy Bowman praises the collection.
A woman unintentionally introduces an evil spirit into her fish tank. A boy rescues a karkadann — a vicious, unicorn-like creature that is “ugly as fried sin”— and cares for it, not minding its reputation as a cold-blooded killer. A man experiments with electromagnetism and awakens voices he can’t silence.
These are the protagonists of THE OVERNEATH, Peter S. Beagle’s latest collection of short stories. Beagle, a much-lauded veteran of the fantasy and science fiction worlds, has created here an assortment of tales centered on ordinary, if flawed, people who don’t always think through to the consequences of their actions. They stumble through these pages with all the grace of a rhinoceros, creating messes as they go and doing their best to clean up after themselves.
Most of the stories are unconnected. Two, however, revisit Schmendrick the Magician, a character from The Last Unicorn. We learn about his origins and training in “The Green-Eyed Boy,” and then about one of his early encounters as a magician in “Schmendrick Alone.”
Schmendrick is perhaps Beagle’s quintessential protagonist. He is talented almost beyond measure, always well-meaning, but not particularly bright. He doesn’t have good judgment and thereby creates unintended problems that he must then solve. It’s hard not to like him, though, and I found myself cringing for him as the problems became larger and the consequences increasingly dire.
I loved these stories because they are, above all else, human. Their magic does not lie in the fantastical settings and situations, but in the essential human truths they reveal. They deal with our obsessions, our well-meaning mistakes, and the choices we must make when our hearts and our minds are conflicted. Beagle’s characters must face the consequences of their decisions, and just like the rest of us, they either do their best to clean up the mess or learn to embrace it.
Patrick Rothfuss on OMNIVORACIOUS, The Amazon Book Review, includes the book among his favorite reads of 2017.
I was lucky enough to get an advance reading copy of this book a month ago, and reading it reminded me why Peter S Beagle is one of my favorite authors. His prose is so lovely and easy to read. He’s one of the first books I recommend to anyone.
BLUE BOOK BALLOON enjoys their first Peter S. Beagle experience.
I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t previously read Beagle but, on the evidence of this book, there is a great range and variety of his work to explore.
There are thirteen stories here, including The Way It Works Out And All. Each is briefly introduced by Beagle. Thus, for example, he informs the reader who hasn’t yet encountered Schmendrick the Magician, one of Beagle’s most popular characters, of his place in the wider canon before, in The Green-Eyed Boy, we read his “origin story”. Schmendrick is apprenticed at an early age to a magician who takes him on almost, it seems, to prove his father wrong to dismiss him. It seems to be a rocky start to an illustrious career, with many mistakes. Part comedic, part fond, the story looks at a boy on the cusp of growing up, and at what that might mean when he has powerful, if ill-controlled, magical abilities.
The final story, Olmert Dapper’s Day, stands out slightly as it is, while still fantastical, a historical tale, set mainly in New England and based on an actual recorded sighting of a unicorn by Dr Olfert Dapper in 1673. How cool is that? We want to know, however, who Dapper was, how he came to be in Maine, what became of him – and how he met a unicorn. Beagle sets out to answer these questions in what is a beautiful little tale.
Altogether an exceptional collection, a beautiful introduction, as I’ve said, to Beagle’s writing.
For more info on THE OVERNEATH, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover design by Elizabeth Story