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Unicorn Mountain by Michael Bishop

Unicorn Mountain (1988)

by Michael Bishop

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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233473,902 (3.54)4



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A fantasy book set in the real world. The premise is familiar to anyone who reads modern mundane fiction. Get a bunch of people with issues, put them together, have them chat a lot. So not much action or excitement, and a heavy emphasis on the "character driven" format, even though there are elements of the story that are fantastical, like ghosts and the presence of unicorns. Honestly, it felt like I was getting my peanut butter mixed up in my chocolate with this book. I would have preferred harder fantasy, or had the supernatural cut out all together. I enjoy things like magical realism, but that wasn't exactly what this was. The magic wasn't matter of fact, and it wasn't transcendent. It was strange and confusing and explained in odd ways and I just couldn't figure out what it was doing there. I also couldn't figure out why I was reading this book. The characters were ok I guess. Not particularly likable but not odious either. Their issues were understandable but again not interesting, and their relationship with each other felt minimal. The most poignant moment of the book was when Bo, a character dying of AIDS, reunites with his brother, and exclaims, "I have family!" There's a hookup near the end that was a complete shrug because there didn't feel like any leadup. I felt a bit like I was conned into reading some sort of fuzzy feel-good novel by promises of magic. I got the sense that there was supposed to be a crescendo at some point in all of this, but I never felt one.

The writing isn't bad. It's very 80s, and functional. There's a mindset in the book that I can't figure out if it's simple depiction, if it's casually racist, or what. The characters themselves are clearly not modern, enlightened beings, and as far as I can tell as someone who is an outsider myself the perspective of Native Americans in the book is represented, but you get these scenes where Libby, a white woman, is getting annoyed at the fact that a tribal policeman is suspicious of what he believes to be a weapon in her possession, and starts thinking of herself as akin to a white hostage during the western expansion, complete with burning ranches. I'm pretty sure that this was all intended to be read as just as bigoted as it is, but the constant flow of it sometimes made me wonder. I suppose I should be thankful that this book is too old give me lecture after lecture about critical race theory, at least.

Also, there's one fantasy word in the entire book. One, and the author had to put a fucking apostrophe in it. Minus one half star just for that. The fact that he lampshades the fact by making reference to it at one point doesn't absolve him of this sin. ( )
  bokai | Sep 19, 2017 |
This was a very moving book about unicorns, AIDS, and learning new things about oneself and others. I liked how Libby, Bo and Sam gradually got to know each other better over time. ( )
  krin5292 | May 7, 2012 |
  rustyoldboat | May 28, 2011 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Bishopprimary authorall editionscalculated
Crisp, SteveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jinks, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Jeri,
whose love sustains
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Libby Quarrels was standing at the produce bin in the gigantic Safeway grocery store in Huerfano, Colorado, scrutinizing the bell peppers and hefting bag after cellophane bag of brown-edged celery stalks and runty carrots.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553279041, Mass Market Paperback)

Winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.

Unicorns roam the uplands of Libby Quarrels' mountain ranch. When Libby takes the AIDS-afflicted Bo Gavin out of exile in Atlanta to live with her in Colorado, she sees no connection between his disease and the fantastic secret she guards. But it so happens the unicorns suffer from a plague of their own, and the alternate world that touches the high country has unleashed magic sinister as well as marvelous. While Libby's Indian ranch hand Sam is stalked by his wife's headless ghost, his estranged daughter has visions that propel her toward the grueling Sun Dance ritual, where an encounter with the spirit world may decide the fate of both the unicorns and the people whose lives they've touched.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:17 -0400)

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