Now Playing: Lucius Shephard interview on Agony Booth podcast
Topic: Book Review
Lucius Shephard is one of the few real true characters working in fiction today. Reading interviews about his life and work makes his real life adventures come off as cool as anything he writes about in his stories.
I first became a fan of Shephard with the publication of his near-future stories in F&SF magazine; these were in turn anthologized in the Gardner Dozois "BEST SCIENCE FICTION OF THE YEAR.." series. Shephard's stories are haunting and familiar, like they are taking place in a mirror image of reality but only a couple years later than today. Much of what he predicts in his fiction (smart suits, combat drugs, seeing eye gun tracking) has either came to pass or is in the works for the next generation of soldiers. Much of his story arcs concern themselves with an imagined war in Central America (a part of the world that he is very familiar with), and were later novelized on their own as LIFE DURING WARTIME and THE JAGUAR HUNTER.
The book I just finished, however, is not about a future war, and only a little bit of it is even fiction. TWO TRAINS RUNNING is three bits; the first bit is a lengthy article about hobos and the FTRA (Freight Train Riders of America), an alleged "hobo mafia" that might or might not have harbored homicidal maniacs at some point. The other two bits are short stories utilizing the settings and characters out of the FTRA story.
Frankly, the best part of the book is the non-fiction bit. It's humorous, wry and pointed. I like the fact that Shephard went out on the road with hobos and "catched out" to hop freights with them.. still, he doesn't pretend to reshape them as noble savages (as they probably would themselves). Shephard appreciates the romance of the hobo lifestyle but wouldn't trade his life for theirs for any money. And that's how most of us would react, too.
The stories are .. okay.
My next Shephard project is finding and reading COLONEL RUTHERFORD'S COLT, which appears to have some promise!