An anthropologist and his alienated brother reunite in a Mexico torn apart by earthquakes and revolution to reenact an ancient Mayan myth of the end of the world in this surrealistic fantasy by the author of Frontera. Shiner captures the complexities of both modern and ancient reality in a story that should appeal to general as well as fantasy audiences. Recommended. Library Journal
Finalist 1989 Nebula Award for Best Novel
Finalist 1989 Crawford Award for First Fantasy
Also by Lewis Shiner on obooko: Black & White; Frontera; Glimpses; Dark Tangos;
Say Goodbye; SLAM
Suddenly the path opened up and Carmichael walked out of the jungle.The perpetual green twilight turned into bright afternoon.The ragged kid who'd been guiding him got excited and ran on ahead, leaving Carmichael to stand blinking at the edge of the rebel camp. He waved at the cloud of white flies around his head and tried to look harmless.
They didn't seem to be expecting him. A teenager in orange pants and a plaid shirt was pissing against a tree. He saw Carmichael and zipped himself up and made nervous little half-bows, grinning in em- barrassment. Somebody else slapped at a jam box and cut off a scratchy, distorted dub tape in mid-echo.
The silence made the others turn and look. Carmichael smiled and held his hands away from his sides. "Periodista," he said. For Christ's sake don't shoot, I might be the NewYorkTimes.
From where he was he could see maybe thirty or forty guerrillas. Most of them wore a uniform of blue jeans and a khaki shirt.There were a lot of straw cowboy hats and billed caps. A few of them had leather lace-up combat boots, a lot more had Converse All-Stars or Nikes.The rest got by with rubber beach sandals or bare feet.
The clearing was a chaos of green canvas tents, sleeping bags, yellow army blankets thrown over poles, and tin cans.The cans were stacked empty around the tents or filled with water or beans or corn soaking for supper. A collie with matted yellow fur and a cut over one eye came up to sniff his ankles.
"Carla said she would do an interview," he told them. His Spanish wasn't great, strictly California high school, but he'd been in Mexico over a month now and he knew they could understand him if they wanted. A woman in a striped shift stared at him from the shade of a tree, both straps of the dress down, a baby at each breast. Finally a middle-aged guy in a flat Fidelista cap and graying beard took a couple of steps toward him.
"?C?mo te llamas?"
"Carmichael. John Carmichael. I work for Rolling Stone.The magazine." He took a card out of the front pocket of his hiking shorts. "I know of them."
"Listen, Carla sent word she'd talk to me. She sent a correo." He looked around for the kid but there was no sign of him.The kid was a case. He'd seen his mother raped by the guardia a few months back. At least that was how Carmichael read it.The kid was only 8 and didn't re- ally understand what was going on. But they killed her when they were done and now all the kid wanted was to be old enough that they'd let him have a rifle.Which would be another year or maybe less, depending on how desperate they got.
The man chewed on the inside of his cheek for a couple of seconds. He didn't seem so much reluctant as nervous. He had a hunted kind of look about him that was making Carmichael nervous too."Okay, I'll talk to her. My name is Faustino."
Carmichael shook hands with him, fingers up, movement style.
"?Cubano?" he asked.
Faustino thought again."Yes," he said, finally.
Carmichael nodded to show it was okay with him. Maybe it was a test.The rebels liked to pretend there weren't any Cubans or Nicaraguans in Mexico, but then Reagan liked to pretend there weren't any US troops here either.
Carmichael just wanted the interview. He hadn't believed he would really get this far, and now if it went sour it was going to break his heart.
"Come with me," Faustino said.They walked uphill around the edge of the clearing.Through a stand of trees Carmichael watched an instructor in jeans and khaki with six teenage girls.The instructor was trying to get them to run up to a line, drop prone, and fire.They were having to pantomime the rifles and they kept giggling.
Faustino took him to the top of the hill and Carmichael could see the next valley and the mountains to the south, just over the border into Guatemala.The mountains were the violet-brown of old, faded photo- graphs, the color of unreal, untouchable things. It was almost noon but there were shreds of clouds still trailing off the highest peaks.
"Beautiful, no?" Faustino said.
Carmichael nodded. He wanted to take a picture but it was too early to risk pulling out a camera. Later, maybe, if Carla was willing.