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by Randall Silvis

Category: Fiction / Literary
0 pages; ISBN: 0967211700

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Carolyn Howard-Johnson


(This Book is in Contention for my Noble Prize in Literature, published each January on

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered

Mysticus by Randall Silvis is a book that didn’t get its due in 1999 when it was published. Certainly it was successful, but it didn’t make the New York Times’ best seller list and it wasn’t featured on Time Magazine’s cover. It should have been.

Each year in my “Back to Literature” column on, I suggest ten (if I can find ten!) books that might have been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature if, in fact, they had received the kind of attention that would have made that possible. I call it my Noble Prize for those who have a profound voice but have not been widely heard are, indeed, noble. I found this special book when I put out a call for such material.

May I digress? The web is a blessing to readers and writers alike because usually its editors are more interested in quality work than in a scoop. “What’s new?” isn’t paramount for them. “What’s great?” is. If only a few more book-lovers hear Randall Silva’s voice because of this review, it will be because review sites on the web are usually blind to publish dates and turn a cold shoulder to the kind of errant pedantry that assigns value to a book because its publisher is prestigious. They generally don’t much care whether a book is an e-book, hardback, trade or mass market paperback or print on demand. Editors and reviewers who ply their trade on the web tend to subscribe to that adage we all (once) held to be true: “Never judge a book by its cover.”

Because of the sheer volume of books published (and other reasons) many review journals and major magazines have lost sight of what counts. MyShelf encourages me to let its readers know about books that sing, books with well-rounded characters, books full of imagination and books that tell of the human condition.

So here is a late review of a book that is a jewel. Like most classics, Mysticus cannot be wrapped up and tied in a pretty bow. It is a bit mystery, a bit futurist, a bit literary, a bit fantasy, a bit mainstream, a bit historical, a bit contemporary and it is compelling. It is woven like threads in a tapestry: it is the story of several lives that intersect one another in imaginative ways. Each story is told from the character’s own point of view, carefully labeled and dated. Some of these “chapters” are only a few paragraphs long, some much longer, but all leave the reader wanting—needing--to learn more. She leaves one chapter for the next—reluctantly—only to be glad she did because the next story--a different story--adds a dimension to the first.

I fear that if I shared some of the details of this plot they would only mislead. It’s better to say, I think, that this book is for the mystical, the political, the literary, and even the fantasy-lovers among us. I can guarantee a reader will not put this book down thinking it is very much like anything else she’s read. Randall Silvis takes chances with his writing and the result is exquisite—palpable and yes, mystical.

(Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s first novel, This is the Place, has won eight awards. Her newly released Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remember has won three. Sona Ovasapyan, Student at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, says,“This author’s words set me free.”
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