The Gift Of Fire/On The Head Of A Pin by Walter Mosley (book review)

Can you handle change? A new home or a new place to work? How about a new reality that changes everything you believe in, maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. But a definite change nonetheless. These are subject of Walter Mosley’s loosely-connected ‘Crosstown To Oblivion’ series.


The flip-over style is perfect for these loosely associated stories. You won’t find strong connections between the tales but rather they’re both about how ordinary people deal with life-changing situations. The format helps distinguish the two stories and stops you looking for links, allowing you to focus on the tale at hand.

The longer of the two stories is ‘The Gift Of Fire’ in which Prometheus finally escapes his shackles and explores modern-day Los Angeles. While there he meets alcoholic petty criminal Nosome Blane and his bedridden nephew, Chief Reddy. With the ability to see the fire within people he meets, Prometheus transfers his power to Reddy and the rejuvenated young man becomes a modern-day messiah, attracting both followers and enemies.

I found this story to be fantastic and uplifting. Reddy’s mission to save mankind and the devotion that his eventual band of followers offer is beautiful. Of course, the gods have a problem with the gift of fire running free on Earth and conspire to stop Reddy. Their machinations result in a Martin Luther King type assassination attempt.

The other tale is ‘On The Head Of A Pin’, where Joshua Winterland is hired as a blogger at a research company and is present for a breakthrough in animatronics that will revolutionise the film business. However, the breakthrough also brings communication from both the past and the future which in turn brings the wrong kind of attention from the government.

This is the weaker of the two stories, there’s nothing wrong with it but rather it pales in comparison with ‘The Gift Of Fire’, which is simply bigger and better. It feels a little rushed and could have benefitted from a slower pace and may another 30 pages.

This was Mosley’s first move away from detective novels and while they’re not quite Science Fiction, they have enough fantasy elements to merit inclusion here. In the end, both Chief Reddy’s journey and Winterland’s revelation and subsequent rebellion are the real stories here and how they kick off is just icing on the well-written cake.

On the whole though, the two stories are solid additions to the ‘Crosstown To Oblivion’ series and are worth reading.

Aidan Fortune

February 2013

(pub: TOR. 397 page flip-over hardback. Price: $24.99 (US). $28.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-3008-6)

check out website: www.tor-forge.com


Once called a "fountain of useless pop culture knowledge", Aidan is an unashamed geek, grateful that he is allowed share his opinions on a global scale. A journalist by trade, Aidan is a massive fan of comics and recently set up a comics group in Brighton in order to engage more with like-minded people. His home is subject to a constant battle of vintage paraphernalia and science fiction & fantasy toys.

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