Journeys will take you to extraordinary places. From a changed Jerusalem to windmills which draw their own wind. From windswept British campsites to vast slave empires which have never been. MacLeod's breadth of vision in this collection is extraordinary, but what unites these stories is his abiding interest in humanity, and the way in which he combines the fantastically strange and with the memorably everyday. Expect widescreen wonder in Journeys, with many surprising truths, and some dazzling writing, along the way.
Despite a distinguished record as a novelist, which has recently won him both the Arthur C Clarke and John W Campbell Awards for his novel Song Of Time, Ian R MacLeod is probably still most widely known as one of the great writers of shorter fiction. He says that it's still his own abiding love in the genre, and, after more than twenty years of writing, the area where he feels you can take the biggest risks, have the most fun, and make the biggest (and most entertaining) mistakes. MacLeod lives in the riverside town of Bewdley in England with his wife Gillian, and divides his time between writing, teaching, and trying to write.
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MacLeod's fourth collection (after 2006's Past Magic) contains mostly fantasies in which departures from consensus reality go entirely unexplained, told from within the imaginary world rather than our own. In the novella "The Hob Carpet," a young aristocrat of a cruel half-Egyptian, half-Aztec empire discovers the human side of the markedly inferior "hobs" who are used as slaves, furniture, and sacrifice fodder. "The Master Miller's Tale" is set in a quasi-medieval, altered England in which one buys wind from magicians. More outrageously, in "The Second Journey of the Magus," Jesus refuses to submit to crucifixion, throws himself off the Temple, summons legions of angels to his aid, and establishes a frightening Kingdom of God on Earth. MacLeod's stately, magisterial grace and richly textured prose may prove too much for readers looking for a quick fix, but the patient will be rewarded.
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MacLeod writes some incredible short stories. From the opening, “The Master Miller's Tale,” to the finale, “Second Journey of the Magus,” these are worlds of haunting beauty, terrible suffering, and delightful ordinariness. “The Master Miller's Tale” is a particularly wonderful example of MacLeod's strengths in scene-setting and tells a magnificent story of the last master miller of an ancient mill who has more than a passing relationship with the winds. “The Second Journey of the Magus” is, in eerie manner, the second trip to Bethlehem of one of the Three Kings. “Elementals” is a tale of a steam-powered land and a man who thinks he has discovered a new source of energy, but it's really something ancient. “The Hob Carpet” is a bizarre and memorable meditation on the keeping of slaves, in a way, and a world gone horrible and decadent. In any case, these are all quite well crafted, just as stellar as MacLeod's novels, and an excellent ground for experimentation. --Regina Schroeder
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