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. Continue reading “Home From the Sea”

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Caliphate: Propaganda and Prediction

Essay: Caliphate: Propaganda and Prediction

Caliphate, Tom Kratman, 2008.

Kratman
Cover by Kurt Miller

There is a thought in some quarters today – Castalia House and some of its bloggers, for instance, come to mind — that science fiction is too politicized.

I sympathize. If someone believes that “everything is political”, that the totality of everything is political, then they are a totalitarian with everything in the world on the agenda to be promoted or destroyed or altered.

On the other hand, politics is baked into science fiction’s literary genes. Half of its forbearers, the satire and the utopia, are inherently political genres.

No science fiction reader would disagree. We can all think of dreadful warnings about what will happen if our society doesn’t stop something or other. And we all know about the utopian schemes of many a science fiction writer.

Every once in a great while one of these political books does achieve something of its goals. More often they are ignored. Sometimes, when reading a utopian work, one thinks “Can you just send me the policy abstract, please?” Continue reading “Caliphate: Propaganda and Prediction”

“Blood Disease”

This week’s weird fiction — or, at least, it will be discussed as weird fiction.

Review: “Blood Disease”, Patrick McGrath, 1988.Blood Disease

I had not heard of McGrath before, but the collective mind of LibraryThing’s Deep Ones group voted this one for discussion. The dust jacket on the collection where it first appeared, Blood and Water and Other Tales, calls him a “postmodern-gothic storyteller”. In a sense, that’s true in terms of this story.

McGrath raises many expectations as to where his tale is going, introduces elements that go nowhere, emphasizes the exact timing of coincidences, and evokes clichés by bringing them up and not quite talking directly to the reader.

The outline is fairly simple.

Congo Bill, an anthropologist (he’s been with the pygmies so I suspect that McGrath was reading some Colin Turnbull), returns to England with a pet monkey and severely debilitated from malaria.

He is greeted by his wife Virginia Clack-Herman and son Frank whom he gives the monkey to. On the way, they stop for the night at the Blue Bat inn. Shortly after Congo Bill and company arrive, the rich man Ronald Dexter and his valet Clutch stop there too. Virginia and Dexter are old acquaintances and sexually attracted to each to other at dinner that night, so she ditches the infirm and sleeping Congo Bill to have sex with Dexter. Continue reading ““Blood Disease””

“Ill Met in Lankhmar”

This week’s weird fiction I approached with a sigh and a bit of trepidation.

I’ve been bouncing off the appeal of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser since first encountering them in grade school in “The Sadness of the Executioner” in Lin Carter’s Flashing Swords #1 anthology. I’m a fan of much of Leiber’s science fiction, and his horror and weird fiction was very innovative. But, to date, I’ve been unimpressed with his sword and sorcery.

Review: “Ill Met in Lankhmar”, Fritz Leiber, 1970.Ill Met in Lankhmar

Leiber started his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series in 1939, but it wasn’t until 1970, with this story, that he told how the two met.

The story starts with Fafhrd and Gray Mouser independently ambushing a party of thieves in the smoggy city of Lankhmar. The city is ruled, de facto, by the Thieves Guild. I’m not aware of any historical society that had anything like a Thieves Guild, but sword and sorcery writers love the idea. (I suspect it started with Robert E. Howard, but I don’t actually know.) Later in the story, Leiber lavishes a lot of detail on what training the Thieves Guild offers to its apprentices and those in the associated Beggars Guild.

Congratulating themselves with lots of wine and ale, the two new friends go home to Gray Mouser’s den in a decrepit, slummy attic where he keeps love Ivrian – rescued from her father’s torture chambers – in a sort of solitaire confinement which Fafhrd privately thinks leads to Ivrian being rather anxious and flighty. Continue reading ““Ill Met in Lankhmar””

The Concordances of the Red Serpent

Review: The Concordances of the Red Serpent, William Meikle, 2011, 2016.concordancesprint

This is Meikle writing a Da Vinci Code-style thriller. There’s a quest for an ancient alchemical manuscript that may hold the key to immortality. There’s a bunch of characters that hop from New York City to Canada to Scotland as they follow the clues.

The story starts out rather like that classic paranoid spy movie Three Days of the Condor with our heroine Patty Doyle, who inventories rare manuscripts for her employer, returning to the office after a brief jaunt out to find most of her co-workers horribly killed. A stranger, Alex Seton, shows up to whisk her away, claiming she’s in danger.

Naturally, an office of dead bodies is going to get the attention of the cops, New York City detectives Mike Turner and Samantha Mendoza. They’re not sure what’s going on, but they suspect the executive of a pharmaceutical company, Adams, as being involved. Continue reading “The Concordances of the Red Serpent”

Sigils and Totems

Review: Sigils and Totems, William Meikle, 2017.Sigils and Totems

The linked stories of this eponymous series, what Meikle has dubbed the “Meikle Mythos” are his most original work I’ve encountered. However entertaining his Lovecraft Mythos tales, monster stories, and Sherlock Holmes and Carnacki pastiches are, he’s playing in others’ sandboxes. He’s built his own with this series.

The series is built around houses. As Meikle says,

There are houses like this all over the world. Most people only know of them from whispered stories over campfires; tall tales told to scare the unwary. But some, those who suffer, some know better. They are drawn to the places where what ails them can be eased. If you have the will, the fortitude, you can peer into another life, where the dead are not gone, where you can see that they thrive and go on, in the dreams that stuff is made of.

Not all these stories strictly follow that pattern though. Continue reading “Sigils and Totems”

The Exiled

This is not a book I would have normally read since it’s a Faerie novel and has serial killer elements and was inspired by a dream vision no less. However, I am reading Meikle’s work set in Scotland, and it was on the list.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Review: The Exiled, William Meikle, 2014.theexiled

Meikle’s novel effectively blends a serial killer thriller with a vision of a fading Faerie realm guarded by a giant and malevolent beast.

Police detective John Grainger investigates a string of very public abduction of young girls, mutilated swans puzzlingly at the scenes. His brother Alan, a journalist in pursuit of a story, does his own research into the matter, and both began to experience visions of some deserted land of stone ruins.

Besides Meikle’s suspenseful pacing and depiction of that Faerie realm and how to cross into it from our world, I liked two specific elements.

First Alan and John aren’t hostile brothers reconciled by shared danger. Meikle doesn’t go that clichéd route. Rather, they are just two brothers who have drifted apart, casually encountering each other as they go about their lives in Edinburgh.

Second, there’s a wonderful conspiracy mongerer named Ferguson who provides some useful information to the brothers – if they can separate it from his anti-Masonic rantings.

There will be heroism and suffering in this novel as the brothers battle the forces of law and order in our world, the abductor, and the forces of Faerie.

I suppose Meikle intended the ending to be a definite resolution, but I thought it ambiguous enough to suggest more to come.

 

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