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Fugue XXIX by Forrest Aguirre
Review by Colleen Cahill
Raw Dog Screaming Press Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 1933293128
Date: October, 2005 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The unexpected is at the heart of each of these stories. Set in places around and out of this world, the tales revel in the bizarre, the strange and the unique. The titles alone reveal many unusual themes, as in "Convergence on a Panoptic Newtonian: The Interstices of Heaven." This science fiction work examines the search for God by a human amateur astronomer and an alien race facing Armageddon. In a work of dark fantasy, "The Universal Language of Silence" focuses on a mime who refuses to speak to anyone, even an old friend and would-be lover, as the price of speech is very high. The titles are intriguing, but the reward is the unusual twists in the stories.

Many of these are very short pieces, some just barely a page in length, but this only heightens their effect. In only a few paragraphs Aguirre takes us on a dark train of corpses with vile pasts in "Tickets, Please" or to the sinister fields of Johnny Milkpodseed in "Return to Abaddon." Simple ideas like an inventory become a study of new concepts in "Kaleidoscopes of Africa," moving from gems in tubes to people in war. Again, there are surprises at every turn in these works, from the danger of squirrels in "The Nut Lady's Cabin" to the surreal world of zeppelins and cannibal children in "Matriarch."

These are not light and happy stories, leaning to the murky side of fantasy and science fiction. In contrast is the poetic, almost jewel-like quality of Aguirre's writing. The language is tailored to each story, with blossoms of color in "The Mystic Flower," appropriate for a mysterious man who may have tapped occult powers, to the stark words of "Hopeless: A Triptych" were three different views of despair are examined. Only a master wordsmith could create such beauty and dread together, all the while making these pieces that are more thought provoking than horrifying.

At first glance, I was not sure I would like this book as I am not a fan of horror literature. And while some of these stories do fall in that genre, I was happily surprised by this truly wonderful collection of riveting stories. Nothing here gave me nightmares, but I know that I will be thinking about these ideas again and again, often because of how Aguirre crafted his words more than the concept itself. Fugue XXIX is a fine collection from one of the great stylists of our age and another work that proves genre IS literature.

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