Within Brian Lumley's works is a certain something that oftentimes finds me late at night with my chin pressed to a book, a chill lapping the base of my spine, making me look over my shoulder and wonder because of his visions. Here I find my mind running rampant, dancing through gardens of strange delights that, if I'm luck, bring about some delicately crafted nightmares to lovingly caress me within my sleep. Its as if the words he crafts, working from some primal place that a reader can easily understand, can bring about feelings I had long considered dead and gone in my horror-hardened mind. This is something I find myself coveting more and more as the days press into years and time marches on.
In this installment of short stories, there are many notable pieces that include, among other things, a short novel dealing with some of my favorite Lovecraftian amphibians. There are also pieces here that found me laughing as well, picturing the dread of the characters as they learned valuable lessons on "juju" and the high cost of certain crimes, and pieces that make me remember why eating things I find outside is never a good idea.
Breaking some of these down, they are:
Snarker's Son, a tale involving an oddity at the police station and a policeman who is at first skeptical until being privy to a meeting of the "tubers," ending the tale in something bloodily to my liking and always full of teeth.
Aunt Hester, brimming with Lovecraftian themes that also dart in their own morbid direct, deals with a woman that can, for some strange reason, switch bodies with her twin brother if she wants to. She finds it out quite by accident at first, doing things innocently and then out of anger. Well, this doesn't sit too well with him, and she learns, in a not-so-wonderful manner involving a very valuable life lesson, why she shouldn't play in grounds she's been told to leave alone. The ending to this piece is a very good one, taking the main plot and standing it on its proverbial ear a bit, giving the reader something that they can take with them anytime they find themselves in a dark, silent void within the night.
The Whisperer, perhaps one of my favorites in the book, finds a Mr. Miles Benton communing with a small, rancid dwarf on the train, one that happens to interact with him in the most terrible of fashions. This run-in, not a good one in many respects, is only the beginning of a long nightmare, one he thinks himself mad for dreaming. Again and again the dwarf appears, whispering in the ears of people with horrible repercussions for Mr. Benton in the process, ruining his life and his sanity in the process. So, is it a dream, is it a nightmare, is it Lumley selecting a main character to torment horribly before introducing him to the rubbery undertow of demise? Its a question you'll love yourself for answering.
The Statement of Henry Worthy, dealing with the dark side of botany, is about plants of unknown origin that are discovered by a Germanic explorer, Horst Graumer, before he disappears and the horrors that these things actually hide when another botanist decides to go looking for them. Deciding to voyage into a certain area of marshlands, he finds what he's looking for and more, falling into a cavern of perpetual horror in the process, his dreams meshing with a reality that worsens as the days press on. Here is a very Lovecraftian, very entertaining piece, teaching everyone that eating greens, contrary to what your mother may have said, can be a wretched ordeal!!
The Disapproval of Jeremy Cleave, one of the funnier pieces I've seen produced by Lumley, focuses on the fun one can have if he were to suddenly decide to partake in extracurricular activities with his best friend's wife while that best friend, in his grave in the queerest of circumstances, stretches his juju a bit. Of particular merit is the ending to this one, fueled by a delicious melody of horror and suffering, making any fan smile with pride.
The Return of the Deep Ones, a story hitting novel lengths, touches upon those Lovecraftian tides and the dwellers that seem to always haunt them. After getting a conch from a certain Mr. Marsh of Innsmouth, our main character finds a change being thrust upon himself, one that spins and twists through oceans of plot and mini-stories, ultimately allowing him to press against that brick wall that all characters in stories really need to hit. While this is a bit older in the Lumley craft, it is still impressive and worth reading, letting those cute little men with the huge, unblinking eyes creep into your heart and make you yearn for the sea and immortality once more.
Excluded from description here are a few tales, No Sharks in the Med, Vanessa's Voice, and The Luststone, all worth of a synopsis in and of themselves but all finding and unwilling medium to do so at this time.
This, along with its companion piece Beneath the Moors, offers a wide variety of reading that don't really adhere to one way of recollecting the decrepit underbelly of living, making certain to entertain even the sloppiest of horror consumers. It makes me long for a house by the ocean, myself.