Ste­van Allred, Reid Psaltis (Il­lus­tra­tor) For­est Av­enue Press (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $17.95 (334pp), 978-1-942436-37-9

Foreword Reviews - - Contents - MEA­GAN LOGSDON

Ste­van Allred’s The Ale­house at the End of the World is a rau­cous romp through the af­ter­life, re­plete with Shake­spearean echoes, an­ti­quated word­play, and sex­ual li­aisons.

A name­less fish­er­man re­ceives a let­ter from his lover bid­ding him to search for her in the af­ter­life. But when he fi­nally reaches the shores of that realm—af­ter be­ing swal­lowed by a whale—he dis­cov­ers that the af­ter­life is not how he had al­ways imag­ined it.

When restor­ing his lover proves to be more com­pli­cated than he an­tic­i­pated, the fish­er­man turns to three bird gods—a gen­tle pel­i­can, a schol­arly cor­morant, and a pi­rat­i­cal frigate bird— to help him. To­gether with a lusty fer­til­ity god­dess, this band of he­roes nav­i­gates the threads of fate to over­throw a tyrant and pre­vent un­mit­i­gated dis­as­ter in both the spirit and ma­te­rial worlds.

The nar­ra­tive is a cre­ative amal­ga­ma­tion of myths and sto­ries from var­i­ous Eastern and West­ern tra­di­tions. The Fates—here called the Tur­ropsi—make an ap­pear­ance as ten­ta­cled crea­tures, in keep­ing with the aquatic mo­tif. The souls of the dead bur­row into the af­ter­life’s beach and be­come clams. Their bod­ies are burned on the sa­cred fire to ap­pease the Kiamah beast, swal­lower of worlds. Grotesque de­tails abound, in­clud­ing of a crow who claims to be the King of the Dead snack­ing on the body parts of the de­ceased. Rap­tur­ous and pleas­ant af­ter­death ex­pe­ri­ences are not to be found here.

The fer­til­ity god­dess, Dewi Sri, is a pow­er­ful fem­i­nine pres­ence in the novel; she un­abashedly de­lights in sex­ual rev­el­ries. Ex­plicit erotic en­coun­ters play no small part in the un­fold­ing events, though the frequency of these en­coun­ters can at times de­tract from the else­where en­gag­ing plot.

The Ale­house at the End of the World weaves to­gether mythic cir­cum­stances and lan­guage to form a tale of hero­ism, self-sac­ri­fice, and love that speaks to tur­bu­lent times.

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