Shadow on the Sun

More weird western stuff.

Raw Feed (1995): Shadow on the Sun, Richard Matheson, 1994.Shadow on the Sun 2

This is probably one of the best fantastic Western stories I’ve read in that the supernatural/fantastic element is central to the story (unlike Roger Zelazny’s and Gerald Hausman’s Wilderness) and in that it seemed to evoke the feeling of the real West (unlike S. P. Somtow’s Moon Dance which seemed more a modern rumination on child abuse and multiple personalities than an historical novel).

The son of Vandaih and offspring of a union between a white woman and an eagle (I haven’t been able to verify if Apache mythology has any such story) was a suitable supernatural nemesis and were-creatures (an eagle) of great violence and power.

Matheson told a suspenseful tale involving the selfish Apache shaman Night Doctor, banished from his tribe for “tampering”; Professor Dodge, mysteriously sought by Vandaih’s son; honorable Indian agent Billjohn Finley who truly cares for his Apache charges and the fate of all Indians; and callow, arrogant young bureaucrat David Bontelle who learns there is more to the world and cosmos than he suspects. Finley in particular is a well-done character. Not only is he brave but he has a passion and anger in him that he controls when dealing with Bontelle and others so that he can serve the Apaches best.

Matheson knows just when to shift points of view to create mystery and suspense, and it doesn’t seem like he’s cheating when he does so. That’s a problem less skilled writers have. Matheson’s prose reminded me very much of Algis Budrys’: both are lean, precise, not given to ornamentation.

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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