Monday, December 14, 2009

Fourtold by Michael Stone

Michael Stone's Fourtold (Baysgarth Publications, 2008) is a special book, a collection of four novellas/novelettes with each operating on a different level of dark fantasy.

The first offering, "San Ferry Anne", as the least "speculative" of the tales, gently ushers the reader into Stone's world, allowing his prose--simple and eloquent--to paint a story of two friends coping with the aftermath of The Great War.

"The Reconstruction of Kasper Clark" comes next, leading the story's namesake to a bizarre clinic run by the devil. The "clinic" helps cure Kasper's condition (his mouth is located in the middle of his forehead), but leaves him with a strange addiction. Stone makes the most of the devil's playground, creating weird scenes and fantastic characters that somehow feel least in that strange place.

"The Terracotta Warrior" is largely a romping bit of old fashioned pulp fiction fun. Even so, Stone's characters are well rounded and believable--more than the cardboard "types" which populated the pulps of old. At its heart a monster story, "The Terracotta Warrior" also tells a tale of courage in unexpected forms.

Finally, we have "Lemon Man". From the first page, the reader feels as disoriented as the protagonist(s), but Stone is in control. Two seemingly separate narratives intertwine, only to come together in truly magnificent fashion in a story that touches family, love, friendship...even heaven and, in a manner, hell. Stone's ability to paint the truly fantastic world at the heart of "Lemon Man" left my brain reeling.

Fourtold is a great sampler of Michael Stone's work. I found his easy prose, his natural, descriptive style, and near flawless presentation a joy to read, even when describing terrible angels or undead guardians of ancient tombs. I'd recommend the book to anyone with a taste for dark fantasy...especially something a little different than the usual tropes which tend to choke the genre.

Buy at


  1. Oh my gosh! What a humungous privilege to be the first book reviewed on the site. You've made my day, sir. Glad you enjoyed the collection. Many, many thanks for troubling to review it.

  2. It's an excellent read. I highly recommend it.

  3. Michael - Thank you for writing it in the first place.

  4. An excellent choice for your first review.

  5. Really good choice, Aaron. Definitely my favorite new book from last year-- Mike has a rare gift!