Genre: Fantasy/Mythical Fiction
In his latest release Peter S. Beagle returns to short story writing. The Overneath is a collection of stories that he has been working on for some time. They are more or less independent of each other, apart from the fact they all deal with something supernatural. Every story is first presented by Beagle himself where he explains the background to that particular tale. It almost becomes a form of greatest hits collection from one of the most prominent writers in the genre. The collection opens strong with an old familiar face making a comeback, Schmendrick the Magician from The Last Unicorn, and then continues with stories from around the globe. Beagle moves from culture to culture and relates stories involving a variety of mythical creatures. He even spins a yarn about the Asian variety of unicorn, the one version he has not written about before.
Fantasy can be quite homogenic in most of its incarnations, leaving little to no room for cultures beyond the European middle ages, but Beagle does not shy away from it. Feeling that it is the direction the genre must go into for it to develop and it is clear that this is what he is doing. There is more to it than that. Every story has a great deal of humanity in it. The supernatural or the fantastical seldom takes center stage, which isn’t uncommon for Beagle’s storytelling. The imaginative and speculative is insteadused to reflect the trials and tribulations of those who experience it. In that sense it is a great follow up to In Calabria that did much the same. The story of a man who was changed by the appearance of a unicorn on his land.
So who is The Overneath for? What reader might enjoy it? The answer to that is not always simple. For those who are familiar with Beagle’s way of spinning a yarn, such as Lila the Werewolf or A Fine and Private Place will recognize the magic between the pages. Those who know him from The Last Unicorn may find a new dimension to him. The stories are not brutal per se; they are not high octane or action packed. They are simple. Simple yet wonderful and they are for those who wish to read stories about regular people, experiencing supernatural things.
C. Marry Hultman