Home From the Sea

I think I got this one free in a giveaway from Meikle’s newsletter.

It’s way cheaper than Meikle’s novels on kindle which, I suppose, means my preference for short stories over novels is not shared. It serves as a good sample of a major strain in his work.

Review: Home From the Sea, William Meikle, 2017.Home From the Sea

Unlike Meikle’s collection Samurai and Other Stories, this story has only one type of story: entities and creatures that don’t know their place. There’s boundary breeching, lockpicking, and mangled spacetime membranes. Things are roused that shouldn’t be and invade our earth from the ether, the briny depths, and the spaces between atoms.

Surprisingly, for such a tightly focused collection, none of it was stale or boring when reading it straight through. There was only one story I had a very minor gripe about.

The Doom That Came to Dunfeld” is the one original tale here and quite an effective horror story. Its narrator tells us what happens when the British government tries to repeat the legendary Philadelphia Experiment off the coast of Newfoundland post-WWII. They want to make a warship invisible. What they get is a dissolving warship and a killer fog.

Meikle has a real knack for the sea horror story and shows it even better with “Home From the Sea” which has a group of Irish men on a rescue mission to take men off a whaler floundering off shore. But they’re already dead, and their killer still on board.

Amoeboid” was the story I have a minor gripe with. The British Rocket Research Group in 1956 finds a bit of gunk on one of their high altitude research balloons. It seems alive and growing and headed down the sewers. A very fun and wonderful Blob-type story with scientists instead of teenagers battling the alien menace. Still, I’m not sure you would get off quite that easily with all the sulfuric acid they spray around.

The Invisible Menace” may be related to “Amoeboid” given it shares a similar setting, same governmental unit, and at least one similarly named character and is also narrated in the first person. An attempt to build a force field to counter Soviet ICBMs results in the lovingly described destruction of many parts of London. I didn’t like its alien menace as much as the one in “Amoeboid”, but I did appreciate the summer blockbuster-style destruction more than the B-movie scale of the other story.

A couple of these stories I’ve looked at before: “Inquisitor” and “SymbiOS”. The first I looked at in Samurai and Other Stories. The second still worked for me after first reviewing the cyberpunk Cthulhu anthology Eldritch Chrome for Innsmouth Free Press, so I’ll just repeat what I said there: its hero gets more than he expected after he buys a brain implant in order to find his way back to gainful employment. What do you expect when you use something that’s a combination of flatworm and some tar-like substance found in the Antarctic?

From Between” is essentially the back story Glasgow PI Derek Adams reads about in Rhythm and Booze.

There are a lot of pastiches here.

William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki shows up in “The Island of Doctor Munroe” and “The Larkhill Barrow”. The first has Carnacki called by an inventor to his island off Scotland. After being shown all sorts of steampunk technology, Carnacki learns that Doctor Munroe is not so much an inventor as an amanuensis of dark forces. “The Larkhill Barrow” is an interesting mixture of accidental magic, an old barrow, and early sound recording technology. It also seems to be the back event alluded to in Meikle’s Sigil and Totems novella Pentacle.

Sherlock Holmes investigates some bad beer in “The Colour That Came to Chiswick”. Despite the title suggesting H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space”, the two really only share a colorful invader from space.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger is called to investigate some crisped vegetation and strange sights in the sky over Edinburgh in “Ripples in the Ether” which has a quite clever reason for its monster’s behavior and why it’s shown up now.

One of my two favorite stories in the collection, “The Tenants of Ladywell Manor”, is also a pastiche of sorts. I was pleased at the first sentence placing the story in Bath, England, a lovely city. But then I saw the names of the characters and realized it’s Meikle’s takeoff on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. But it’s not a crude “mash up”. Meikle retains some of Austen’s characters for his own plot which has the love of a good woman saving a man – even from abominable horrors.

I like modern Cthulhu Mythos stories that use technology post-dating Lovecraft. Its nuclear technology, not really new now, in “The Terror That Came to Dounreay”. Its narrator investigates why a nuclear research facility in remote Scotland is being troubled by some elusive presence.

#Dreaming” is a remarkable piece of Mythos updating. As you may guess, it answers the question about how 21st century Cthulhu would get followers: Twitter, of course. It was my other favorite story in the collection.

A remarkably entertaining collection for anyone looking for Lovecraftian fiction or stories about dangers beyond our ken.

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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