"Stars Seen Through Stone":
The story was originally published in Fantasy and Science Fiction and later in The Best of Lucius Shepard collection (forthcoming in August 2008). Like many other Lucius Shepard stories “Stars Seen Through Stone” is not an overtly SFF story. His fiction takes place in the real world, but a real world where sometimes something unexpected and unreal can occur. This is actually addressed early on in the story when the narrator mentions that the world contains all sorts of weirdness, but it is only the most extreme that anyone notices at all. “Stars Seen Through Stone” is set in 1970’s (sort of) Pennsylvania in a town called Black William (great name, by the way). Vernon is a small time, but moderately respected independent music producer and he signs a talented, if creepy, singer. There is an early incident with some odd ghost lights at the town library, but after that early incident the story follows Vernon developing his creepy singer, but comes back to the history of the town and the history of those odd lights. It is a quietly fascinating and compelling story, one that doesn’t necessarily jump out as being the story readers bang down the doors of their friends house to talk about, but it is also a really good story and one definitely worth the recognition of the various award nominations it has received.
The gambling story! Woo! "Dead Money" opens as a gambling story, but any Lucius Shepard story isn't just one thing. There is gambling, but also zombies, voodoo, more violence, some sort of criminal underworld, and a damn fine story with a wicked ending.
Now, the main reason I have this post up is that I've also read, just recently, "Emerald Street Expansions" and I have no idea what so ever how to write about it. Sure, I cheapened out on "Dead Money" back when I reviewed Shepard's Best of collection, but that was just a quick overview (still a great story, by the way, go find it and read "Dead Money") but "Emerald Street Expansions" is a bit of a mind fuck.
The protagonist is bored with his life so he accepts some sort procedure which is intended to bring out the personality / consciousness of some other person. To spice up his life. Things don't go the way he expects and the 15th Century French Poet he is given meets up with a host of other people who knew said poet back in the day. This is before the story just gets weird. There is an assault on the home of the woman who did the procedure where the narrator is attacked by all sorts of kitchen appliances which he himself designed to be lethal and that's when I sat back and wondered if "Emerald Street Expansions" would be better read if under the power of hallucinogenic drugs. I'm sure it would be a trip. If I actually took anything stronger than Sprite or Ibuprofen. Alas, I don't, so I'm left trying to figure out the story on my own.
Honestly, "Emerald Street Expansions" is as solidly written as one would hope for or expect from Lucius Shepard but I really can't recommend it. The narrator / protagonist is just about as unlikeable a character as possible to build a story around. If anything, I wanted bad things to happen to him to perhaps end the story sooner. This is besides the fact that I struggled to really figure out what the hell was going on and what Shepard was trying to communicate. Surely I missed something.
Either way, I'm ready for the next story and I'm ready to stop trying to figure this one out.