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Steps Through the Mist
Reviewed by Rick Klaw, © 2003

Format: Book
By:   Zoran Zivkovic
Review Date:   April 18, 2003
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

Reminiscent of the best of Frederic Brown, Anthony Boucher, and Jonathan Carroll, Serbian writer Zoran Zivkovic’s latest book Steps Through the Mists (Atelier Polaris, 2003) traverses the unpredictable worlds of Fate. Five women of various ages, occupations, and mental states encounter their unique futures: a school girl journeys in others’ dreams; a woman in a straightjacket not only sees the future, but determines it as well; a middle-aged skier encounters a mysterious being who attempts to control her; a fraudulent fortune-teller who mistrusts her own abilities; and an old lady whose precious alarm clock breaks. Through five short stories, Zivkovic weaves these disparate elements into a masterpiece that can’t be laid down.

“It wouldn’t be a good idea for me to go”

This was refusing to obey. Miss Emily had given an order and it had to be carried out without question. But suddenly her destabilized authority did not seem so important.

“It wouldn’t? You don’t think, by any chance, that we will miss your company?”

“You will in a way. If I leave the classroom, it will cease to exist.”

Steps Through the Mist is littered with scenes that question what is real and what is not. The endings are almost all shockers, but of the good kind. The surprise that puts everything into context or of the type that you hope the writer would go through with if they had the balls or the vision. Zivkovic has both in spades. And the talent. His writing is deceptively simple and beautifully elegant all at the same time. His translator Alice Copple-Tosic is to be congratulated. A poor translation often destroys an otherwise good book. Zivkovic has used Copple-Tosic on most of his English translated works with good reason, as evident with Steps Through the Mist which reads like it was originally written in English. The prose is flawless.

As though reading my thoughts, the man suddenly addressed me: “Don’t worry. The lift will start working in seven and half minutes.”

I have never been one to talk to strangers, particularly when I don’t find them likable and am in an awful mood, as I was at that moment. My first thought was not to reply, but then I would appear immature and impolite. I would have been happier if he hadn’t said a word, if we had spent that time in silence as we hung there, caught between heaven and earth, but now I had no choice. Social considerations, however, did not require me to be excessively polite.

“Really, seven and a half? You must be clairvoyant!” I made no effort whatsoever to hide the mockery in my voice. I turned my head briefly towards him, with an ironic smile, then turned away from him again.

“I’m not,” was his simple reply.

Zivkovic brings us into the minds of the women. We become familiar with each one’s fears, hopes, and neuroses. As each made her way through the mists to the future, I empathized with her plight. Their confusion, trepidation, and concerns became my own.

My complaints about this book are mainly cosmetic and most of them rise out of my experience as a bookseller and publisher. Though nicely packaged with good cover stock and quality paper, there is nothing on the outside of the book to tell you about it. On the cover is an attractive painting with the author and title. The back cover is black with a small moon and the publisher’s logo. If this book hadn’t been sent to me and if I weren’t already familiar with Zoran Zivkovic, I would have never picked this up, never mind read it. Sadly, these problems (along with the current lack of distribution) will most likely prevent Steps Through the Mist from getting the audience it deserves.

With this book, Zoran Zivkovic demonstrates why he is one of the great, although unheralded, masters of the contemporary fantasy. Steps Through the Mist is a must have for people who like their fiction a little surreal and a lot off center.

Former RevolutionSF fiction editor, Rick Klaw writes the popular “Geeks With Books” column for SFSite. His first book of essays, reviews, and other things Klaw Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century, will be published in September from Monkey Brains, Inc.

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