The Reefs of Earth

R. A. Lafferty
The Reefs of Earth Cover

The Reefs of Earth


Neil Gaiman has written that readers know they've encountered an R. A. Lafferty story by reading one sentence. He might have had in mind a sentence like this one from The Reefs of Earth:

The Dulantys could manage to look like regular people, until they had to laugh, or die.

The Dulanty family are Pucca, aliens being serving time on our backwater planet where they act as observers and do what they can to bring Earth around to a suitable habitat for their own and other alien species. Yes, Pucca sounds like "pookah," and during the centuries the Dulantys and their kind, always challenged to come off as totally human, have earned the reputation of being goblins. They mosey through life on the fringes of society, but when situations turn sour, killing begins. The Dulanty children, faced with the deaths and incarcerations of their adult kin, take it to mind that wiping out the human race might be their best alternative.

Lafferty's voice is colloquial and erudite and like no other in American fiction. The Reefs of Earth, on of Lafferty's first two novels both published in 1968, is a science fiction novel treated as a tall tale, or perhaps it's the other way around. Lafferty's out-of-print novels are discouragingly expensive, as are the new releases of his collected short fiction. But search him out. Based on the little I've read, he is a brilliant and eccentric American treasure.