I’m a little late with this week’s subject of discussion by the Deep Ones over at LibraryThing.
Review: “The Sect of the Idiot”, Thomas Ligotti, 1988.
To be honest, I was not impressed by this Ligotti story, and I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it.
It’s long on atmosphere, short on plot, and doesn’t really have much effect in suggesting what it seems to want to suggest.
Its unnamed narrator is in an unknown, gloomy town that sounds like something out of Lovecraft (or, maybe The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari).
He has a strange encounter with a man knocking on his door who comments on the view out the window.
The narrator has longed dream of living in the town, so there seems to suggest that the town is more than just a metaphorical dream of his.
The night after he meets the man he has a strange dream, a “triumph of the grotesque” which is the story’s most effective scene with its cloaked figures on strange chairs, all of the figures askew at weird angles.
This is Samuels in critic mode, cogent in presentation and never failing to say something interesting about his subjects no matter how familiar I was with them. Between the lines, something of Samuels’ own criteria for good weird fiction peeps through.
There were plenty of material new to me about writers I have a very peripheral knowledge of.
Samuels’ “The Root of Evil: Hanns Heinz Ewers and Alraune” certainly did not have to work hard to educate me. I only knew Ewers through his much reprinted “The Spider” and about his espionage work on behalf of Germany in World War 1-era America. Samuels looks at Ewers’ persona as a drug addict and a bisexual predator (allegedly aided by hypnotism) on men and women and his greatest work, Alraune. Ewers, in that novel, becomes the “Master-Artist Braun” who alone can control the destructive force he has created, the “mandrake-woman” Alraune.
Good weird fiction doesn’t lend itself to long reviews. The powers of the story are weakened when surprises are prematurely revealed. The effects of carefully paced narration are distorted or not conveyed. Latinate words like “alienation”, “identity”, “penance”, and “transformation” are cold and insufficient words of thematic taxonomy.
And Samuels’ collection is good weird fiction of a bleak yet, as Reggie Oliver notes in his introduction, exultant sort. The tone and effect may remind one of Thomas Ligotti, an author Samuels has called the greatest living writer of weird fiction. Yet Samuels rejects that writer’s materialistic nihilism.
Two of these “three tales of corporate horror” will fascinate many of those who have spent time as symbol manipulators in the offices of large corporations.
The collection’s titular short novel and “I Have a Special Plan for This World” expand on the themes of “Our Temporary Supervisor” and “The Town Manager”, two of the best stories in Ligotti’s Teatro Grottesco. The narrators here work for companies whose ultimate goal is to produce nothing or baleful somethings and undertake a literally inhuman replacement of their workforce, the logical end to all this being a structure that is more shaped by an invisible tentacle than capitalism’s invisible hand.
The narrator of “My Work Is Not Yet Done” is a supervisor, Dominio by name though his boss Richard keeps calling him Domino. Said boss and six fellow supervisors become the target of Dominio’s revenge after getting him fired from the company. But on the way back from the gun store in preparation for his upcoming rampage – and Ligotti has the narrator wryly and concisely sum up all the reasons usually given for such rampages, something mysterious happens. Dominio’s vengeance takes an increasingly bizarre and supernatural turn, the world literally darkening with each killing. The novel ends with a surprising confrontation with Richard and attendant revelations. Continue reading “My Work Is Not Yet Done”→
Impressed enough by the Ligotti work I’ve seen in anthologies devoted to following up on H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, I bought this anthology.
Is Ligotti a Lovecraftian writer? Well, based on this collection – and I have no idea how representative it is – yes and no. There are no explicit Lovecraftian allusions in this collection – no references to the forbidden books, nightmare locations, and mysterious entities created by Lovecraft and those adding to the Mythos. Yet, the pre-eminent, most important aspect of Lovecraft’s work, “cosmic horror”, the “infinite terror and dreariness” of existence, as one story here puts it, is shared by Ligotti.
Yet, that horror is expressed in vaguer and more general terms than in Lovecraft. In one of his stories, the horrific revelation is one of man’s hidden evolutionary past, miscegenation in a family’s past, the existence of alien races. The revelation at the end of a Ligotti story is rarely so specific.
Taki’s Magazine is an unexpected place to find the occasional review of science fiction and weird fiction, but editor Ann Sterzinger has made it part of the magazine’s fight “against the junk culture foisted upon us and mirages of a new world order.”