SYMPHONY by Charles L. Grant


Vol. I of the Millennium Quartet
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 First volume in Grant's (In the Fog, 1993, etc.) millennial tetralogy about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this one focusing on the pale horseman Death. Far more adventurous than his story is Grant's form, which imitates the structure of a symphony. The effect seems rather feeble, though, when set beside Anthony Burgess's Napoleon Symphony: A Novel in Four Movements or Joyce's music chapter in Ulysses (``Bronze by gold heard the hoofirons, steelyringing''). Here, the small town of Maple Landing is about to witness, it would seem, the beginning of the world's end. A church bell tolls at night when no one is there to ring it--and, impossibly, only one bell of the three in the belfry rings. The altar crucifix, meantime, is coated with dead moths. Innocent young Dimitri sees a horse gallop about town that no one else can see, then hears large flocks of birds no one else hears. A crazy Bible-thumping woman warns everyone of the Lord's approaching vengeance. Following the worst winter in memory, folks at the Moonglow Diner speculate about the heavy heat, house fires, and water contamination. Reverend Casey Chisholm, a giant, hides a sorry past, but suddenly seems to have the ability to perform miracles. The rough beast slouching toward Maple Landing is a magnificent Lincoln Continental ``nearly as white and silent as the moon, silver horse in full gallop fixed on the hood.'' The shadowy driver within would seem to be a woman, accompanied by LupÇ, who can see werewolves, and by Stan Hogan, a vagrant of uncertain morality. It's likely that many of these figures will reappear in later installments. This first of the series, however, is all plotless nuance and buildup, full of hopscotch scene-drawing until the storm breaks in the final pages, releasing a rather conventional small-town apocalypse. Grant offers such modest intensity here (leaving bigger apocalypses, one assumes, for future volumes) that few will linger long. Horseman, pass by.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-86274-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1996


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