The Works

R.A. Lafferty's novel vary in quality much more than his short stories. The master did write a few not-so-hot pieces in his time. A reader with a first-time interest in a Lafferty novel is well advised, if he strays far from any "Lame" or "UNRATED" or even "OK" books. All the "Excellent" rated books are worth their weight in gold. Specifically I would recommend Okla Hannali, Space Chantey and Past Master as first reads.

The serious Lafferty fan will doubtlessly ignore the ratings and make up his own mind. If you did so, then you can add your own comments to each story. Or just read what other readers opine.


Pastmaster
ASTROBE - DER GOLDENE PLANET (PAST MASTER)

Lafferty's most famous novel and rightfully so. Unlike some other Lafferty stories the main character Thomas Morus (yes, the actual one) is an accessible human being, with an identity. The plot is hair-raising, thrilling and frightfully philosophical. Thomas Morus, the author of Utopia, is transported by time travel to this planet, to lead a society that on first sight, Morus deems ideal. One problem though is, that many Astrobe humans choose a life in the slums in poverty, filth and sickness over the society, that offers all (?) that one might ask for. What is going wrong ? 

This might be the book, that made the single most impression on me of all the books I've read. 

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Space Chantey
SPACE CHANTEY

This is Homers Odyssey put into galactic surroundings. Well, Ulysses didn't battle the nordic gods, nor did he play poker with snakes. So its actually quite different... You could also classify it as a collection of short stories featuring the same cast of characters, because the episodes are just loosely knit together. 

Lafferty rhymes horribly, but writes like a genius and many small paragraphs contain complete, hilarious short stories in themselves (like f.e. the bit about Pyotr Igrokovitch). 

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Okla Hanali
OKLA HANALI

This is not a science fiction, but rather an epic  narrative of actual indian history in Lafferty style.  Its the biography of a fictional character "Hannali Innominee" - chief of the Choctaws - that begins with the  around 1830 and ends together with the Civil War around 1870. The fascinating aspect of the book is, that you come in touch with a part of american history, that the populace hardly is aware of nor really likes to know of any better, but that in drama and outrageousness beats such familiar history highlights like the "Boston Tea Party".

I can't compare this with authentic indian literature, but it seems to me that Lafferty has captured the essence pretty well. Reading this book also clears up a lot of the mysteries about the other Stories. Why do so many people in Lafferty stories have strange names like "Fairfeather" or "Crabgrass". Why are Lafferty characters prone to kidding.

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The Reefs of Earth
THE REEFS OF EARTH

Six not-so alien children of the Puka-race are out to destroy the world. This book has a very Mark Twainish feel to it and is more a regular novel than fantasy. Almost completely throughout the book there is an ambiguity, are these just kids with a whole lot of fantasy, or are these really aliens ? 

This book is a clear notch below "Past Master", "Okla Hannali" and "Space Chantey". But it is also a clear notch above the books rated as "OK". 

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Sindbad, the 13th voyage
SINDBAD, THE THIRTEENTH VOYAGE

After romping through the Odyssee Lafferty twists all sanity out of the Adventures of Sindbad. This is a bit of a mixture of Annals of Klepsis and Space Chantey in style and content, and a very funny one at that.

Sindbad is on a mission to find the golden child Harun al Rashid who has a golden humor all of his own. Turns out that Harun isn't all that nice a guy, but who cares when the action is hot, the poppy-smoke intoxicating and beautiful women abound...

You won't be quite sure, what Sindbad (from Keronain) is supposed to do on Gaea-Earth, but you will have a great time looking over his shoulder.

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Dotty
DOTTY

A spin off from the "The Devil is Dead" trilogy, this book is complete in itself and you don't have to read the other books to understand this book.

The main character is a curious, rebellious and pious girl/woman, who certainly enjoys life, but sees her faith challenged on occasion.The center piece of the book is the "falling off grace" of Dotty and the return to faith again. Unfortunately this part lacks substance and the profundity of "Past Master" and must be considered a failure.

But that's just one small gripe, the story telling is top notch and thankfully briskly paced. Dotty reminds me in a certain way of John Steinbeck's books. 

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Not to mention camels
UNRATED
NOT TO MENTION CAMELS

Lafferty's most surreal book? A nightmare, a massacre, a parable ? 

This is too much of the strong stuff! I won't rate it, but I will just recommend to the novice Laffery readers to not buy this as your first or second Lafferty book.

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Tales of Chicago
TALES OF CHICAGO

(The first part of "More than Melchisedech") 
Contains: 

  1. Early Boyhood of a Magus 
  2. Late Boyhood of a Magus 
  3. Hog-Butcher & Gadarene Swine 
  4. Tales of Chicago 

This is the "lightest" book of the "The Devil is Dead" trilogy - it is the easiest to read and doesn't bog down with bogus theories or extended rhymes. This is an episodical biography of the magus "Melchisedech Duffey", from his boyhood in Iowa, no Boston, no no it's St. Louis -ah never mind- to his later adventures in Chicago. For a Lafferty novel, the characters are quite frivolous at times and except for the occasional magic stunt here and a monster there they act and interact normally in a rather normal world. 

This is a very entertaining read - an Archipelago without the fat.  The other two parts are "Tales of Midnight" and "Argo"

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Arrive at Easterwine
ARRIVE AT EASTERWINE

Epikt, the famous computer of many a short story, shares his own personal biography, which isn' t really a biography at all. Not as funny and clever as I hoped it would be. 

The story becomes very -um- entangled and loses its drive quite fast. But it has the favorite cast of characters, Valerie Mok, Aloysius Shiplap, Charles Cogsworth et al. So its still an enjoyable read. 

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Archipelago
ARCHIPELAGO

This is the first (?) part of the loosely knit "The Devil is Dead" trilogy. The book starts off great, and I was sure that this was to be one of the excellent ones. A motley group of people "The Dirty Five" live it up in Australia, until the war breaks out, where they then find themselves in the Pacific. Unfortunately shortly afterwards the story runs out of gas and Lafferty fills up the pages with a lot of poems (that I personally, don't like very much), some medievalistic catholic musings and a halfhearted polemic against modern art and artists in particular.

  There is so much good stuff here, that it makes the book a very worthwhile read. Alas Lafferty's inability to sew all the good bits together into a coherent piece, make this book much less than excellent. 

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Apocalypses
APOCALYPSES

Two stories: Where Have You Been, Sandialotis and The Three Armageddons of Enniscorthy Sweeny 

In Where have you been, Sandialotis? Constantine Quiche, the worlds best detective investigates the beautiful land "Sandaliotis", which extends 300 miles from Sardinia, What ? You say there is no such land ? Well it reappeared just very recently. But it has been there all along. There is a mysterious threat connected with this unusul appearance. There is the suspicion of fraud! Can Constantine Quiche unravel the mystery, save the world and seperate reality from illusion. No, but neither can the reader!  The other story is the biography of Enniscorthy Sweeny magus, entrepeneur and composer of three important operas the "Three Armageddons". In an otherwise peaceful albeit fast progressing century, Sweeny's operas are shocking in their vulgar violence and power.

The first opera "Armageddon I" opens on 1916 in Vienna. The second opera "Armageddon II" is performed for the first time in 1939. The third installement "Armageddon III" will be heard in 1984 in Palestine, and as history will note "The Situation Worsens".  The book was first printed in 1977

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Annals of Klepsis
ANNALS OF KLEPSIS

Pirates in outer space.
Klepsis is one of the three most inelegant planets in the universe. Populated by pirates, the word is out, that if you are irish and have a peg-leg the transfer to Klepsis is free! The strange thing about this place is though, it has no history. Quite a challenge for historian Long John Tong (---hmm---) Tyrone.

There's treasure chests, maps, large castle parties, exploding heads, slave sales, massacres and the Doomsday equation which might bring it all to an end. 

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SERPENT'S EGG

The world in 2035 is populated by computers, smart apes and humans - animals are talking again. In this setting the story of three, later twelve genius children evolves - only a few of them being human at all. Are these super-mega-children maybe too much for this world to handle. Is one of the kids the serpent's egg  

This story has a nice flow, the first chapters are great but in the end it seems the author wasn't really sure how to get clean out of the chaos he produced. In a way a failure, but fun to read anyway. This book wins by style not by content.  

This book is a bit too similiar to The Reefs of Earth, which overall is the better and more coherent book. So mark this one down accordingly, it's still too good to be considered "lame". 

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Fourth Mansions
FOURTH MANSIONS

The table of contents is more interesting than the remaining content of the book unfortunately, so read the table of contents here and maybe buy one of the other books first:

                      CONTENTS
 Chapter

   I  I Think I will Dismember the World         
      with my Hands                             7
  II  Either Awful Dead or Awful Old           26
 III  If They Can Kill You, I Can Kill You       
         Worse                                 41
  IV  Liar on the Mountain                     64
   V  Helical Passion and Saintly Sexpot       82
  VI  Revenge of Strength Unused              102
 VII  Of Elegant Dogs and Returned Men        117
VIII  The Line of Your Throat, the               
         Mercurial Movement                   135
  IX  But I Eat Them Up, Federico,               
         I Eat Them Up                        156
   X  Are You Not of Flimsy Flesh To             
         Be So Afraid?                        173
  XI  "I Did Not Call You," said the Lord     191
 XII  Fourth Mansions                         208
XIII  And All Tall Monsters Stand             231

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The Devil is Dead
THE DEVIL IS DEAD

This book is like a short story dragged out of proportion. Lafferty characters are distant heroes, in the sense that you listen to their stories but you don't identify with them. The fate of the main character happens in a different world outside of reality, so you don't really care. Not in this story anyway, and this is bad, because the story itself isn't particularly fun or thought provoking. I have a feeling I missed something here, but I can't put my fingers on it :) 

This is apparently part of a Trilogy, maybe with the two other books this one might be more enjoyable... 

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EAST OF LAUGHTER

The cover art is the worst I have ever seen on a book. A hallmark in artistic ineptitude and tastelessness. (For those who have the book, look closely at the way the two figures old hands and the way the bodies are positioned.) The story itself is copyrighted 1988 and must be therefore a very late work of Lafferty.

My problem with this book is, that it was a drag to read. There are way too many characters in this book really doing nothing at all, just moving from one place to another, getting murdered Agatha Christie style. Why they are murdered isn't even clear in the end. Everything is surreal and in its surrealness pointless. I am sure others see it differently. (Well write a better review then)

This book was nominated for an "Arthur C Clarke Award".

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Aurelia
UNRATED
AURELIA (TO AURELIA WITH HORNS)
Aurelia was a fifteen-year-old girl.
From a very advanced world.
She'd passed Starship building easily enough.
But she'd slept through most of celestial navigation.
That was how she ended up on a little back-water 
dump like Earth.
Where her advanced powers seemed like miracles.
Some thought she was the Messias.
Some thought she was the Devil.
No one was prepared for the truth.

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The Elliptical Grave
UNRATED
THE ELLIPTICAL GRAVE

The next great mutating of mankind is a little bit like the next massive earthquaking along the San Andreas fault: it is overdue, and it may happen at any time.

(Goody... another "mutation story")

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UNRATED ALARIC

The history of Alaric and the fall of rome. This isn't as much fictionalized as Okla Hannali, but this is no dry history treatment either.

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Half A Sky
UNRATED
THE COSCUIN CHRONICLES

This is a series of four books that tell the story of Dana Coscuin, some irish guy, over the years from 1845 to 1872.

  1. The Flame is Green
  2. Half a Sky
  3. Sardinian Summer
  4. First & Last Island

I believe only the first two books have been published. The contents seem to be a mixture of fantasy and real history. Quite like Alaric in that respect.

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UNRATED TALES OF MIDNIGHT

The second of the "More than Melchisedech" books.

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UNRATED ARGO

The third of the "More than Melchisedech" books.

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