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Chronicle is a comprehensively unappealing, oddball little fantasy yarn about an enigmatic boy named Elmandif and his strange adventures, none of which particularly amounts to much. Born in Loess, a fly-infested rural town, to a mother who carried him eleven months, Elmandif matures quickly, proving himself both intellectually and sexually precocious while still a toddler. He also has an unusual affinity towards animals. Several snakes even live in his hair. After alienating the town through his myriad peculiarites (plus the fact he has gotten several young girls pregnant), Elmandif takes off on a meandering journey which takes him to a vast city, on the way to which he meets up with several other eccentrics and outcasts like himself. There’s a fellow who claims to have untold amounts of gold buried all over the world. Another wears an elephant mask that he has had on so long it has molded itself to his face more or less permanently.

A reader can reach one of two conclusions about a book such as this. 1) The author simply isn’t very good, or 2) he is one of those self-indulgent types who mistakes obscurantism for brilliance. Come to think of it, choice #2 would naturally lead you to #1, wouldn’t it? Whatever the case, Chronicle’s predilection towards the odd and inexplicable goes beyond the realm of acceptable artistic experimentation into mere nonsense. It’s as if Zoss read Mervyn Peake’s Titus Alone while drunk and decided on a whim that he could dang well do this stuff too.

Characters pop up and then vanish in the story with nary an explanation. No one’s actions are rooted in any sort of motivation, because there is no discernible plot driving the narrative. And to top it all off, there is no one in the story to serve as a sympathetic protagonist; not even Elmandif, whose quest is so nebulous and ill-explained you wonder why Zoss felt he had to write a book about it. Reading Chronicle, you get the impression Zoss may have thought he had written some kind of decadent Aesop’s fable for grownups. (The amount of child-sex and bestiality in this book will probably turn off most readers right off the bat.) But all he really turned in was an exercise in indulgence and incoherence, a sterling example of how not to write fantasy. This is one Chronicle that has deservedly fallen into obscurity.

Heidi King’s pen-and-ink illustrations in the 1980 Pocket Books paperback are more than servicable. Unfortunately the pulp paper they’re printed on didn’t do them justice, to put it mildly. Zoss, it turns out, has only ever been an occasional writer, and his principal career was in music. Never has the adage “Don’t give up your day job” applied more.