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The Oracle Lips
Storm Constantine
Stark House Press, 400 pages

The Oracle Lips
Storm Constantine
Storm Constantine was born in 1956 in England. She attended Stafford Art College in 1971-72 and worked as a finance officer in Staffordshire. Her writing career began with The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit in 1987. Storm Constantine's other novels include The Bewitchments of Love and Hate (1988), The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire (1989), The Monstrous Regiment (1990), Aleph (1991), Hermetech (1991), Burying the Shadow (1992), Sign for the Sacred (1993), Calenture (1994), Stalking Tender Prey (1995) and Scenting Hallowed Blood (1996).

Storm Constantine Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

Storm Constantine is a name that should be familiar to most fans of dark fantasy. If your wardrobe runs almost exclusively to black, and your make-up choice is lead white, and if you've ever dyed your hair a completely unconvincing shade of black, Constantine may well be a name that has influenced your lifestyle. In Britain, she is queen of the Goths.

The Oracle Lips gathers together some of the short works -- prose and poetry -- of her profuse and popular fiction. All dark, most fantasy, these 23 stories represent a decade in the horror genre and a wide-range of subject matter. Don't worry, though, that favourite of the Children of the Night, the vampire tale is not forgotten.

"Nocturne: The Twilight Community" delivers a scathing portrait of the shallow end of the Goth life. (I hear someone out there accusing me of redundant phrasing. Hush!) The heroines of this tale of fixation define "obsession." They obsess on their weight, their hair, their make-up, their status at their nightspot, and, mainly, on the heart of all of their conversations -- gossip. But one of their number itches to move away from the pack and attain a higher plane of "cool." The lowest of ambitions, yes, but her heart's desire.

Come to think of it, many of the stories in this collection deal with the frantic passion to belong or to be a person other than one's self. The title story, "The Oracle Lips," follows the efforts of a plain, dull woman to become the mysterious femme fatale she observes one night in an unlikely place. Zeeb, a simple fortuneteller in a city that just happens to migrate on its own, longs to hang onto the fairy-like creature he finds, hoping to bring some of her magic into the dismal world he inhabits in "The Time She Became." A grieving woman dares to venture into the unknown territories to escape existence with her primitive tribe "By the River of If Only, in the Land of Might Have Been."

Science fiction puts in an appearance with "The Vitreous Suzerain" and "God Be With You." A story of distant planets and even more distant civilizations and a story of beliefs that turn lethal on a not-so-distant settlement. Even fairy tales get the Constantine touch in this collection.

Sounds like entertaining stuff, and it is. But, if you prefer a deeper connection with your fiction, The Oracle Lips may not be what you're looking for. Though the stories are diverting and well-written, there is not the emotional contact to be found in the work of some authors. The tears that fall while reading Nancy Kress, or Jonathan Lethem, and others you might name, are absent with Constantine's short stories. Is that always a bad thing? No, of course not -- fiction has as many moods as the people who create it and not every author is going for that affect. Still, once you've felt the stirring of a deeper link, it's not easy to give that up.

Copyright © 1999 Lisa DuMond

Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. She co-authored the 45th anniversary issue cover of MAD Magazine. Previews of her latest, as yet unpublished, novel are available at Hades Online.

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