Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Short Story Review: The Emerald Mountain by Victor J. Banis

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: MLR Press
Pages: 34

A burned-out reporter for a gay rag in San Francisco is given an unusual assignment, to follow up on rumors that there is a gay messiah miraculously healing people in the Castro. His investigation leads him to Peter Lucas Simon, who was recently released from a mental clinic in Ohio called Earth Light, and who has no memory. Simon is a man caught in the present, with no history and no vision into the future. Simon seems too supernatural to be true.

The two men strike up a relationship, and the reporter travels to Earth Light in search of answers to Simon’s mysterious past. But the reporter’s visit only brings more questions. They become involved, but then a disappearance presents an intriguing question. Is Simon real or is he a hallucination fabricated in the reporter’s unhinged head?

One of the hallmarks of Victor J. Banis stories is the unique characters that lure the reader into an enjoyable journey, and this tale is no exception. These characters shine through this intriguing storyline, and charm the reader while the author plays a shell game with the plot that leaves the reader wondering what was real and what was imagined.

In the end, the reader realized that, real or invented, this is a story about letting fear of the unknown grab hold of us rather than accepting what is. This is a beautifully told story that blends religion and mysticism and homophobia. It is a mystery that keeps the reader engrossed and guessing to the last page. I can highly recommend this story.

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