The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volumes I & II were provided to me by Tachyon Publications in exchange for honest reviews.
The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volumes I & II
Currently, we’re in the middle of Peter S. Beagle mini-renaissance. In April, Ace Books published The Way Home, containing two novellas set in the world of Beagle’s most famous creation, The Last Unicorn. This month Tachyon is releasing two premium “best of” anthologies: The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume I (Lila the Werewolf and Other Stories) and Volume II (Oakland Dragon Blues and Other Stories).
The two volumes span Beagle’s career. The second includes a previously unpublished story (“The Mantichora”) and four previously uncollected stories. Each tale is introduced by the author. As a fan of Peter S. Beagle, I loved the added context to what was many pleasant re-reads. The collections also contains several illustrations and cover art by Stephanie Law. I’m kind of bummed that I only had an eARC and wasn’t better able to enjoy her work.
If I were to categorize the two volumes, I’d say the first is split between fables and stories in which strange things happen to normal people. The second volume is the speculative fiction version of Beagle’s life with other fictional digressions.
Volume I shows off Peter Beagle’s ability to balance of the extremely mundane with the fantastical. I love the generally nonplussed manner in which many of his characters treat the unknown: they just accept things and move on to dealing with the situation.
I’m seeing an angel, you’re not—this is no big deal. I just want it should move out the way, let me work.from “Uncle Chian, Aunt Rifke, and the Angel”
These stories aren’t about how the fantastical comes to be, they are about the consequences these things will have in your life.
Volume II perhaps shows a wider range in Beagle’s writing with his most comedic works and his darker stories. It’s also the more uneven of the two volumes. The previously uncollected stories mostly feature young Beagle and his friends as characters. These are fine stories, but they suffer in comparison to a story like “Vanishing” with its shadowy East Berlin and not-quite-likeable protagonist.
If you are a fan of Peter S. Beagle, this is a nice collection to have for the extras. If the only thing you’ve read is The Last Unicorn, there are many tales in these volumes with as much heart and magic. If you’re asking “Peter who?”, you’re in for a treat.