Review: The Feverish Stars by John Shirley

cover of The Feverish Stars by John ShirleyThe Feverish Stars by John Shirley
Independent Legions Publishing (March 2021)
306 pages; $22.35 paperback; $5.90 e-book

Reviewed by Rick Hipson

A kaleidoscope of stunning visuals, The Feverish Stars delivers a bullet of an experience which ricochets off every nerve and fiber of the imagination. Firing its trajectory on a one-way collision course with any expectations you might have, Shirley grabs your senses by the roots and coaxes with a lust for more. Against the maelstrom of a sci-fi punk master’s deliberate muse, every word strikes down like a hammer of poetic reckoning, smashing down gates to portals of fantastical realms. There can be no return without alteration, but isn’t that what we’re all here for?

Kicking off this release of previously published work and a few exclusives is an introduction that’s as sharp, enticing, and to the heart as the book it serves. A master in his own right, Richard Christian Matheson exudes obvious passion for the content ahead with some brutally precise prose of his own. Our appetites whet with an abundance of anticipation, we’re rendered insatiable lovers of strange fiction poised to devour.

The collection opens with “A State of Imprisonment,” an engaging novella about a not-so-distant futuristic world in which your body is far from the only thing the new world order can imprison. Then, we’re tourists in a dystopian era where we meet “Meerga,” a programable perfect companion who challenges us to rewrite the very morals we assumed made us human. In “Dreams Downstream,” a literal tidal wave of dreams and nightmares threatens to wash out an entire town. Veering into “Exelda’s Voice,” we learn when one travels with John Shirley, it’s no surprise when even your GPS is out to get you for its own selfish jollies. One of my personal favorites was a quick and deadly western called “Claw Spurs” that will have you second guessing the storyteller who drifts in out of the blue. And if you find yourself craving more towards the psychedelic punk side of things, Shirley’s got you covered with “Waiting Room,” which I’m convinced is a slice of life representative of the author’s own scourge of reckoning. Another personal favorite, “Calphais and the Demon Malchance,” brought me to my subconscious knees and forced me to question the consequences of overriding our true nature to fulfil our deepest desires.

As flawless as Shirley is at pulling us into worlds which don’t let go, more impressive still is his talent for floating us along a diverse cross pollination of landscapes with seemingly no effort. Shirley proves himself to be a multi-faceted force, a literary alchemist traveling across imaginary realms while conjuring whichever subgenre, atmosphere or culture is required to create the story at hand. Running full gambit, The Feverish Stars is a journey of dangerous wonders that more often than not resonates close enough to home to be rendered scary as hell.

Once stricken by The Feverish Stars, symptoms are bound to persist, but the moment you realize it’s taken hold you won’t want it any other way.

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