________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 18 . . . . May 12, 2000

cover Aphid & The Shadow Drinkers.

Steven Lattey.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 1999.
174 pp., pbk., $15.95.
ISBN 1-895449-93-6.

Grades 12 and up / Ages 17 and up.
Review by Joanne Peters.

* /4


When you are a child, your life is the way it is. You are just there, plunked down on the grass at safety's feet, and off you go to see the sights. You accept everything the way it is. You don't have the years of experience to see change, so everything has an immutable quality. The quality of truth. A foundation to build a universe of your own. Granite blocks of precious memory. A gunny sack full of the secrets of the world. Everybody keeps giving you the secrets. They want to get rid of them because they are so heavy and they weigh so very much.

Our little town was ringed by madness, by anarchy, by a tinge of colour from a realm outside the common rules. The Rules of Order were a thin veneer stretched tighter and tighter over a cavern. Our little footsteps echoed on the earth as if it were a drum skin. The sounds reverberated in the huge belly of the drum, larger than life.

Aphid & The Shadow Drinkers is comprised of seven short stories and a novella, "Aphid & The Rocket Lawnchair." Set in British Columbia's interior, the stories expose the secrets of life in an area settled by successive waves of immigrants who carry the baggage of a past they wish they could forget. Secrets usually generate intense interest: we want to know "why", what drove a character to act as he or she did. Unfortunately, Lattey rarely provides much insight into motivation; in fact, not much happens in most of the stories. Where he does succeed is in description: he has an extraordinary eye for detail, often of the most shocking and outrageous acts and situations.

"Aphid & The Rocket Lawnchair," the novella which comprises the other half of the collection, offers plenty of shock and no small amount of outrage. It begins with an auto accident; the victims, Aphid and Priscilla, are "treated" by a sadistic doctor whose surgical skills are as remarkable as his total lack of humanity. From there, the story becomes more and more absurd, more and more macabre, as the "rocket lawnchair" of the title is built and launched.

Fiction of the fantastic type should engage the reader in order to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality; if nothing else, we want to find out what will happen next. By the time Aphid and Priscilla were "launched", I really didn't care, about them, any of the other characters, or about the next adventure awaiting them.

Not Recommended.

Joanne Peters is the 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