cover image Ghost of Chance

Ghost of Chance

William S. Burroughs. Serpent's Tail, $14.99 (96pp) ISBN 978-1-85242-406-0

Burroughs (My Education: A Book of Dreams) turns 81 this year, but, much to the delight of loyal readers, his latest fiction continues to display a febrile imagination, corrosive wit and edgy desolation recalling his preeminent early work. This peculiar, short volume is a whimsical hodgepodge, interweaving, among other matters, a natural history of Madagascar; a jeremiad for the environment; a colonial adventure and a takeoff on the Book of Revelations. It opens as Captain Mission, an 18th-century pirate, founds Libertatia, a utopian colony on Madagascar dedicated to protecting the indigenous landscape and lemur population (lemurs are known by island natives as ``ghosts''). When international bureaucrats conspire to decimate the colony, overpopulate the island and plunder its flora and fauna (``the Garden of Lost Chances,'' preserved for 160 million years since the island split from mainland Africa), a series of fantastic, ancient plagues are released, destroying much of the earth. This strange and fragmented story presents--in supple prose that requires no parental advisory--an environmentalist twist to Burroughs's quintessential theme: the cosmic struggle between bureaucratic Control and the embattled, individual soul. (Sept.)