I’ve been enjoying the writing of Peter S. Beagle a very long time, since discovering his fantasy novels “A Fine and Private Place” and “The Last Unicorn” in the late 1960s. He continues to entertain me. This collection gathers stories from various anthologies dated 2010 through 2016.
“The Green-Eyed Boy” is a tale of Beagle’s character Schmendrick the Magician just starting out in his ill-fated career, an important incident for fans of “The Last Unicorn.”
“The Story of Kao Yu” tells of a Chinese unicorn (of sorts) who helps a famous judge decide some of his most troubling cases…until the judge finds himself in moral jeopardy.
“My Son Heydari and the Karkadann” tells of yet another kind of unicorn, this one a fierce beast of Iran akin to a rhinoceros, and the young man and his girlfriend who help nurse an injured one back to health.
“The Queen Who Could Not Walk” asks, if you are raised with every privilege to offset your disability, what will happen when you are turned out into the streets with nothing?
“Trinity County, CA” wonders what might happen if lawmen trying to control illegal drugs had to deal with guardian dragons owned by the drug lords?
In “The Way It Works Out And All,” Beagle uses real-life fantasy writer and his mentor, Avram Davidson in a fun fictional adventure in which Avram has discovered The Overneath, a way to travel great distances quickly, but a dangerous one.
“Kaskia” features a laptop computer so inexplicable to its user that it might well be magic. The messages he’s receiving certainly seem to be from some other world than ours.
“Schmendrick Alone” is another tale of bungled magic that the wizard allows to get out of control.
“Great-Grandmother in the Cellar” is a chilling tale of a family secret that is not only their horror, but at times their savior.
“Underbridge” is a modern day troll story set in Seattle, and using an actual troll sculpture found there as the focal point.
“The Very Nasty Aquarium” asks, can an ancient evil reside in a simple aquarium decoration, and what happens when the water starts turning black?
“Music, When Soft Voices Die” describes four rooming-house inhabitants in a sort of Victorian steampunk London. One of them is experimenting with early radio devices, and unleashes voices from the dead that will not be silenced.
“Olfert Dapper’s Day” takes place in 17th-century Maine, where the title character once reported to have seen a real unicorn. Beagle’s development of this spare idea is fascinating.
All good stories, and recommended.