Lisa Goldstein’s Dark Cities Underground

cover art for Dark Cities UndergroundMarian McHugh wrote this review.

Dark Cities Underground is a story of what ifs. What if Alice in Wonderland was a true story, but rather than Lewis Carroll being the originator it was really Alice Liddell who experienced the adventure and told the story to Charles Dodgson? Or what if Lord of the Rings was a tale told to J. R. R. Tolkien by his son Christopher? Or Peter Pan was the adventure of Peter Llewelyn Davis as told to J. M. Barrie? This book’s premise is: What if “Jeremy in Neverwas” was really the adventures of E. A. Jones’s son Jeremy Jerome Gerontius Jones, now simply known as Jerry Jones, and not just a story made up for children?

There are times when I enjoy reading a story I know nothing about. I know of and enjoy Lisa Goldstein‘s work, including Walking the Labyrinth but knew nothing of the tale contained within the pages of Dark Cities Underground. Not even the back of the softcover edition gave me any indication of what to expect within the covers; all that was there were comments from other reviewers:

“A delightful excursion that’s equal parts charming and harrowing.”
Charles de Lint

“Lisa Goldstein is the perfect, born storyteller. Her story pulls you in and
wraps you round and it is hard to think of anything else until it is over.”
Diana Wynne Jones

“Dark Cities Underground is a thorough success in stylishly entertaining the reader.”
Gahan Wilson

Well, it definitely sounds like I should enjoy the story.

So I turned the book over to take another look at the cover. It definitely had me intrigued. The illustration shows an underground railway station. In the background there is a man in a suit being grabbed by another man and a women running up from behind. In the foreground there is Anubis, the Egyptian guardian to the underworld, complete with human body and dog head, watching all that is happening in the station.

I’m not going to give away the story because what I enjoyed most about this book was the discovery. As with her other books Goldstein slowly leads the reader into a voyage of discovery. At first things move slowly, but every word has its place; Goldstein doesn’t believe in wasting words. Then all of a sudden you find yourself on a roller coaster ride without an ending – or so it seems.

The main protagonists of the story are Ruthie Berry, a woman in her thirties, a single mother, who is writing a biography of E. A. Jones, author of the Jeremy books, and Jerry Jones, son of E. A. Jones and the Jeremy in his mother’s books. Along the way there are many interesting characters such as Barnaby Sattermole (is he good or evil?) and the wonderful Corn sisters, Enid, Dina and Edna, and of course the Guardian.

Most of the events take place in the world of the underground rail system, both the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in San Francisco, and the London Underground. And you always thought that the whole idea of the underground systems throughout the world was for transport. Well, think again – there is more to them than you think, but to find out you will have to read Dark Cities Underground, which I highly recommend.

(Tor, 1999)

[Editor’s note: The E.A. Jones in this novel is fictional, not the E.A. Jones who writes SFF/horror erotica.]

Diverse Voices

Diverse Voices is our catch-all for writers and other staffers who did but a few reviews or other writings for us. They are credited at the beginning of the actual writing if we know who they are which we don't always. It also includes material by writers that first appeared in the Sleeping Hedgehog, our in-house newsletter for staff and readers here. Some material is drawn from Folk Tales, Mostly Folk and Roots & Branches, three other publications we've done.

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