________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 14 . . . . March 17, 2000

cover Half-Light.

Marcus Tessem.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 1999.
63 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 1-895449-98-7.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.
Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4


There was a glimmer in his eyes, so deep that only God and I could see it, and that faint radiance, still there after all that had happened between us, somehow reached out to me. I was suddenly chilled by the thought of annihilating him; chilled, but not dissuaded. He chuckled bitterly as he sipped from his glass, and the acrid sting of whiskey pricked my nostrils.

The air was still; he continued, "When I first descended in His name, I was like all the rest you know: Ithuriel, Uzziel, Gabriel - I shared their vision, I shared their work. I was optimistic; I was enraptured by the splendour of creation, just as you must have been once, long before you fell. I stood with them when they confronted your master in Eden; I loved this world . . . and the Eve's prodigy spread across the Earth.

Angels are currently a subject of great interest, and the worlds of Half-Light are populated both by them (usually the fallen variety), and by humans soon to join their ranks, either through mischance or their own mortal failings. However, these fallen angels owe as much to The X-Files and the now-defunct Millenium as they do to Milton's Paradise Lost. Tessem uses a variety of genres to tell his brief and bizarre tales: the gothic horror story ("Last Testament"), a sci-fi fantasy set in the midst of pre-Millennial apocalypse ("Impact"), and a very warped Western ("Outlanders"). Although the stories in this collection are usually quite short, they are not easy reading: disquieting and often disturbing, these tales usually take unexpected twists and turns and the endings are never predictable. There's a definite cinematic feel to the writing, as well; Tessem's work as an amateur film-maker and script-writer are clearly reflected in scenes that cut back and forth and in dialogue "voice-overs."

This is not a collection for average readers, even those fond of fantasy or the horror genre. Half-Light is one of four works published in Thistledown's "New Leaf" series, which is devoted to first books by emerging writers. It is Tessem's first book, an experimental work in many ways, and has to be considered in that context. Teachers of creative writing classes might find it useful, particularly as an example of how a writer takes established genres (the western, the gothic horror story) and re-invents them. Otherwise, Half-Light is likely to appeal to a very limited readership, and for that reason, is recommended only with reservations.

Recommended with Reservations.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364