Lewis Shiner is one of those wonderful writers whose work defies categorization. He damned sure isn't a horror writer, but his short story, The Circle, is considered by many to be a classic of the genre. Shiner is no science fiction author, but his novel, Frontera, helped usher in the cyberpunk movement. His 1990 novel, Slam, chronicled the world of the skater underground. There's a strong political conviction running through the body of his work. Much of Lewis Shiner's work is set in the world of music. His World Fantasy Award-winning novel, Glimpses, is a perfect example.

Lewis Shiner's latest novel is Outside the Gates of Eden, and it is his masterpiece. Described as the War and Peace of 1960's counterculture, this novel defines a generation.

How did a generation that was one of the most optimistic and idealistic in history become one of the most despised? The hippies wanted to change the world for the better, but now they are dismissed with a contemptuously smarmy "OK Boomer". What happened?

Outside the Gates of Eden examines this. The novel deals with two friends, Cole and Alex. After seeing Dylan in 1965, they start a band. The friends travel through the counterculture, and their lives and the world change along the way. They experience Haight-Ashbury in 1967. They attend protests. Woodstock. A commune. The outlaw country bars of Texas. The Soho art scene in New York City.

To Shiner's credit, the hippies are not depicted as saints. Haight-Ashbury is described as frightening and corrupt. Woodstock is a disorganized mess. The most sympathetic and lovable character in the book is a wealthy Capitalist. He strips the myths and looks at it all with painful honesty.

Cole and Alex delve into romance with degrees of success and abject failure. They dally with drugs and alcohol. They make money. They lose money. Their convictions wax and wane. As life wears them down, they struggle to maintain their convictions.

Outside the Gates of Eden is a gorgeous, breathtaking book. You'll laugh, you'll ache, you will be moved.

Outside the Gates of Eden was my favorite book of 2019, and it is one of my favorite books of all time. I didn't think Shiner could top Glimpses, but he did. The audiobook is excellent as well. This is a book I will read and listen to more than once.

Written by Mark Sieber


No comments

Add Comment

Enclosing asterisks marks text as bold (*word*), underscore are made via _word_.
Standard emoticons like :-) and ;-) are converted to images.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.
CAPTCHA