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The Beyond

Jeffrey Ford

EOS / Harper Collins

US Hardcover

ISBN 0-38 0-97897-0

Publication Date: January 2001

290 Pages; $24.00

Date Reviewed: 05-21-02

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002



Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, General Fiction

05-16-02, 08-29-02, 01-07-03, 03-26-03, 09-13-03

Waste not want not; if you create a world for god's sake don't write just one book about it. In 'The Physiognomy', Jeffrey Ford created The Well-Built City in his own mind, in the readers' minds, and in the mind of Drachton Below, the erstwhile Builder. Physiognomist Cley was merely a player, albeit an important one who brought about the fall of the City in the first volume, and learned to live outside of it in 'Memoranda'. The second volume also introduced the narrator of this delightful third book, Misrix the demon. Addicted to the drug sheer beauty, living alone but seeking companionship in humans who see him as a monster, in 'The Beyond' Misrix has a story to tell about Cley. As usual, Ford turns it into an entertaining and imaginative novel.

As the reader begins 'The Beyond', the first question might be 'Why write it?' Well, for one thing, anything ever even nominally associated with fantasy must be done in trines. At least. You can thank J. R. R. Tolkien for that. If that doesn't strike you as a good reason, then you can understand my apprehension when I picked up this novel. But Ford has something up his sleeve and if you can get past trilogy fatigue, the chances are you'll really enjoy this little outing. What Ford has up his sleeve, is usual, good writing. And it seems that he's found a voice he likes to work with in Misrix. 'The Beyond' reveals itself to be a story that must be told, words that must be written. And Ford writes very, very well.

Ford's skills are threefold -- like the format. He writes great prose, he has a strong and vivid imagination, and he writes briefly. The sum total of pages for the "Well Built City Trilogy", (which is actually NOT being used to sell the books) is less than the total found in the opening brick of many an adventure. If brevity is the soul of wit, then Ford is its avatar.

The plot in 'The Beyond' has the tale of the further adventures of Cley, in the Beyond, as he seeks redemption for the heinous acts of physiognomy he perpetrated on the one-time beauty Arla Beaton. The story is told by Misrix, who imagines himself into Cley's world, because Misrix has been accused of killing Cley. Readers can expect more of the Kafkaesque prose and story line that made the previous two books so wonderful. Cley encounters daemons, flesh eating trees and other metaphorical creatures that manage to be both symbolic and fully realized living beings in the same breath. It's a really unique talent that Ford has, and he uses it well. The pace is fast, and filed with imaginative landscapes and visions.

Having gone from the Well-Built City and into 'The Beyond' there's a feeling that Ford is unable to discover any more interesting nooks or crannies in his delicate world. This final, powerful novel will have to suffice. Ford's skill as a writer makes this novel come alive, even as those in it find themselves confronting death. It's the kind of irony that populates his novels and makes them strong.