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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Gist Hunter & Other Stories by Matthew Hughes

The Gist Hunter & Other Stories by Matthew Hughes. San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2005. ISBN: 1-59780-020-1

I was not previously familiar with Matthew Hughes. Most of the stories in this collection are copyrighted from 2003 to 2005, although there are a few older stories in the “other tales” section at the back of the book. There are five Henghis Hapthorn stories, and three Guth Bandar stories. I preferred the latter, but let's begin with the former.

Hapthorn claims to be Old Earth's foremost freelance discriminator, which seems to be a fancy term for private investigator extraordinaire, In the first story, our hero suddenly loses not only his high level of intelligence, but he (and pretty much everyone else) suddenly becomes very ugly. Not to mention that all of his money (and also that of pretty much everyone else) has suddenly vanished from their bank accounts. And while the august Hapthorn most decidedly does NOT believe in magic, still, solving this puzzle involves the services of a demon from another dimension. Whose services, Hapthorn continues to make use of in subsequent stories, of which there are six, total.

As I mentioned, I preferred the second set of stories, albeit there are only three of them, involving Guth Bandar, noönaut traveler between the realms of the collective unconscious, known as the noösphere, or Commons. These are made up of archetypal Events, Situations, and Landscapes (note the deliberate capitalization), some Authentic and others Allegorical in nature.

For example, in one excursion, during training, he travels through an Archetypal heaven and hell scenario, where the devils and demons are climbing up numerous scaling ladders, and assaulting heaven in physical combat. This is not where he was supposed to be going, but due to interference from one of his fellow students and rivals, he ends up trying to find his way back home by going the long way round, passing through various archetypal locales en route, and invariably getting into trouble wherever he goes.

To end the book are four independent stories, not connected to the others. Witty and inventive, this collection of—are they SciFi or fantasy?—stories is definitely recommended for fans of these genres.

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