“The Land Across” by Gene Wolfe

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Grafton (I don’t think we ever know his first name?) is trapped within a small, Eastern European country, his passport confiscated.  He’s remarkably calm about everything, generally goes with the flow and eventually becomes a principal investigator in the secret police force.  His case involves voodoo dolls, mysterious disappearances, ghosts, a disembodied hand (think The Thing), and a cult of satanists.  All in a day’s work!

The story was really a page-turner for me, really enjoyable… until the ending.  Made me feel like I did during LOST: everything’s just a little bizarre, plot twists abound, and each answered riddle yields a whole new crop of mysteries — but unfortunately, when the big reveal is finally out, we’re still left with many questions.

What was the significance of the dictator was always present but ignored – symbol of Big Brother?

Why did Russ Rathaus lie?

Why did Father Zenon get invited to investigate the cult?

The country is a grimly humorous depiction of an entrenched, corrupt and controlling government.  Even without the mystcal stuff, everything just follows a different sort of logic that we are used to in the West.  For instance the way they (sometimes) incarcerate prisoners:  pick a random citizen (maybe one of your rivals) to be the “jailer” – if the prisoner manages to escape, then the jailer gets shot.  And the prisoner too, once they catch him.

 

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