Charles de Lint, Yellow Dog (Subterranean Publications, 2008)
Some things are definitely worth the wait -- even if the wait for the Yellow Dog chapbook was the result of the our Mail Room pixies losing the Christmas Chapbook that de Lint sends out each year! (I blame it on the metheglin that they all were indulging in over the holidays.) Yellow Dog is from Subterranean Publications, a fine small press who has sent us, over the decades, any number of publications that have delighted our reviewers.
I really love chapbooks as they amount to little tales in a handy package that can generally be read in a hour or so. Paul Brandon sent me a lovely chapbook recently containing material that foreshadows The Wild Reel, his newest novel, and we get chapbooks for review like Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe's A Walking Tour of the Shambles (Little Walks for Sightseers #16), Anthony Hayward's The Green Men of Birmingham, and Philip Pullman's Lyra's Oxford. The highlight for me is that Charles de Lint blesses me each year with his annual chapbook, an exquisite story that will see print again later usually in a collection, or perhaps in an anthology alongside other great tales.
Now if you're a long-time de Lint fan, you'll be expecting Yellow Dogs to be set in Newford, that ever so richly described city where most of his fiction has taken place during the latter part of his writing career. Well, you'd be wrong. Starting in the Someplace to Be Flying novel, he developed a new locale for his stories -- the U.S. Southwest. He revisits it in my favorite novel of his, Forests of the Heart, which is partly set there, and in his Medicine Road novella, which is fully set there, and his eagerly anticipated forthcoming novel, The Mystery of Grace, which is his first full novel set there. Charles has said that 'I thought it was time to let go of Newford and its regular cast of characters, although I'll miss visiting them and catching up on the gossip'. Based on my reading of Medicine Road, he'll soon develop a new cast of characters for we readers to be fascinated by!
So you're in for a treat when you read Yellow Dog, which you may well want to consider an appetizer for the main course that The Mystery of Grace will be next year.
So what's Yellow Dog about, you ask? With echoes of one thread of the story in Someplace to Be Flying, it is set in a junkyard complete with a number of canines of a surly nature. It has a first person narrator who's smart in many senses of being smart, a mysterious stranger who is not what he appears to be, and a plotline that any veteran de Lint reader will recognize with no difficulty at all. And that's all I'm saying in this review, as anything more of a description would spoil your reading of Yellow Dog for the first time. Read it for the vivid descriptions of the Southwestern desert; read it for a taste of what The Mystery of Grace will likely be like. . . . Hell, read it if you've never read this writer before to see just how good he is! Oh, and the illustrations by de Lint are quite lovely as well.
Now go order your own copy thisaway.