John Little seems to be obsessed with time. Much of his fiction seems to confront the notion that time is a one-way street that we travelers have no control over. He dealt with the subject brilliantly in his only full-length novel to date, The Memory Tree, and also in short pieces like Placeholders and the Stoker Award-winning Miranda. His latest publication, The Gray Zone, is from Bad Moon Books and it's the most stunning thing of its kind to come along since Billy Pilgrim came unstuck in time in that famous book from a long time ago.

The Gray Zone opens in as exotic a location as any reader could ask for. It's 1984 and American Henry Davidson is on an extended visit to Aswan, Egypt. In his Afterword Little explains that he has visited Aswan on several occasions and this firsthand knowledge of the land gives the story an authentic feel. In fact the prose is so descriptive that it's like reading something from Paul Theroux.

Davidson is staying with some hospitable locals and he joins them on a voyage on The Nile on the family's felucca. A near-tragedy occurs and Davidson risks his life to help, gaining the gratitude of the Egyptians. This is where the story takes a mystical turn. He is granted the power to travel throughout his life, up and down the timescape at will. All except for an area at the end called The Gray Zone.

The Gray Zone is my favorite kind of story. John Little doesn't spell out every detail of his story. As I finished The Gray Zone I was struck with as many questions as I had answers. Was Henry Davidson able to alter the course of his life with his newfound gift? Or was his fate sealed from the moment he was born? Is time only a one-way street or are the theoreticists right and all moments exist simultaneously? Are Henry Davidson and the rest of us doomed to repeat our tragic errors for eternity? You may derive different conclusions than I.

John Little is known in the horror fiction community and part of me wonders why. I don't consider what he does horror fiction. Science Fiction is a little closer, but that doesn't quite quite cut it either. I think John Little transcends genre, as writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Jorge Luis Borges and Harlan Ellison do. It's a shame that, at least for now, John Little is publishing to such a small audience in the small press. He deserves the biggest audience possible.

Miranda won John the coveted Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction. Don't get me wrong, I adored Miranda, but I think The Gray Zone is at least twice as good.

The Gray Zone is coming in August 2009 from Bad Moon Books, who also published Miranda. If you want a copy, I'd act fast. Unless you have a way of traveling back into your own past and correct the error of missing this one. It's going to sell out fast and become a treasured collector's edition. And you simply can't beat a work of fiction this amazing for such a reasonable price.

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