The Last Oblivion and The Black Diamonds (Book Review)

Charles De Lint

The Last Oblivion, by Clark Ashton Smith, Hippocampus Press, 2002, $15.
The Black Diamonds, by Clark Ashton Smith, Hippocampus Press, 2002, $15.

If, however, you're already an aficionado of verse, or would like to give something more complex a try, I would highly recommend The Last Oblivion, a new collection bringing together the best of Clark Ashton Smith's fantastic poetry. The verses you'll find here aren't easy reading, either in subject matter or in their dense, gorgeous language, but effort spent will be well-rewarded.

For, while better remembered (if at all, these days) for his short story cycles set in Zothique and Hyperborea, Smith was also a master of the poetic form. His strict meters and complex use of language are a joy to read, especially in a time when everything - in contemporary writing as well as the world at large - is feted for its brevity and its accessibility to the lowest common denominator. Smith's poetry isn't for the fast food reader, and neither is his prose.

This collection was put together by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, the former also editing another recent Hippocampus Press book by Smith. The Black Diamonds was written when Smith was fourteen, and while the novel doesn't really stand up to the masterful short stories Smith came to write in the years to follow, it's still a fascinating glimpse into the early workings of his fertile imagination.

I'll recommend the novel to the Smith fan; the poetry collection to anyone who loves verse with a dark, fantastic slant.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 2004 v106 i6 p34(2) COPYRIGHT 2004 Spilogale, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the author.

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