Locus Magazine Review

The Resurrection Manís Legacy and Other Stories, Dale Bailey (Golden Gryphon Press 1-930846-22-3, $24.95, 332pp, hc) November 2003. Cover by John Picacio.

The most exciting books issued by Golden Gryphon Press are probably those from new or newish writers: collections by such as Andy Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, and (soon) Jeff VanderMeer, first glimpses of the full creative range of emerging masters. The latest offering of this sort is The Resurrection Man's Legacy, assembling 11 stories by the ambitious, stylistically impressive dark fantasist Dale Bailey; delving within, it's easy to become hooked on his intense, moody prose, his carefully observed and spooky Southern settings, his ingenuity in matters macabre. It's also possible to become annoyed by a morose quality in many of the tales, a rather bootless melancholy; but that may simply be the tropes of horror grating on the nerves of a reviewer of optimistic tendency. Read, and judge for yourselves.

The title story is an alternate-world baseball novelette that made the final Nebula ballot, and it is indeed striking, a peculiar mingling of nostalgias for things past and future, more basically an estimation of how complete the grip of the past is on the present. It's at novelette length that Bailey excels: there's "Death and Suffrage," funereal satire in which the dead, this time sans the invitation of corrupt machine politicians, come forth and vote in a US presidential election; "The Anencephalic Fields," the account of a young boy's distinctly unhealthy upbringing on a zombie farm; "Quinn's Way," a ran-away-with-the-circus tale rich with echoes of Ray Bradbury and Edward Whittemore; "The Census Taker," about a polder of old Southern values maintaining its ways by soberly vicious means; "Cockroach," a particularly chilling description of an expectant father coming to conflate his soon-to-be-born child with the monstrosity of his own professional and emotional failure; and "Sheep's Clothing," an effort at near-future hard SF which explores novel methods of assassination and the self-hatred of the assassin himself. In the short story, there's less joy: "Home Burial" and "Touched," although strongly evocative of West Virginian desolation, are fairly ordinary horror, and "Exodus" overplays its hand, making its point with plonkingly heavy emphasis, the price of didacticism condignly paid. But "In Green's Dominion" is a respectable novella, full of poetic aspiration and sylvan menace, so prospects of larger scope than the novelette are quite encouraging.

The subjectively perceived moroseness alluded to before is evident in Bailey's punitive treatment of his characters, who are again and again deprived of father figures and relegated to depressing dark deserts of the soul, and in a certain indulgence of the effects of horror purely for their own sake. But again, this is an argument more with the ethic of horror than with the author himself. The Resurrection Man's Legacy is a grand banquet of despondency, even if I find suspect nourishment there.

— Nick Gevers, Locus, January 2004


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