Book Review: NEW ADVENTURES IN H.P. LOVECRAFT’S DREAMLANDS Vol. 1-4

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Brian Lumley
Tor Books
1986-1990

By now, if you know anything about British author Brian Lumley by the book reviews I maintain on this blog o’mine, that one of his most obvious literary inspirations was H.P. Lovecraft. Not only has the lore inspired and influenced Lumley’s own blend of weird science fiction and horror hybrids; like many other authors have done before and since, he’s also gleefully frolicked in the mythos of the worlds Lovecraft built in his short career in speculative fiction. One of these was a four-volume set of books set in the Dreamlands from the Dream Cycle stories, featuring the adventures of erstwhile dream-questers David Hero and Eldin the Wanderer.

Each of these four books clock in at a surprisingly brief (for Lumley) 240-some-odd pages, really more of a set of four novellas. Normally, I would do a separate review for each, but in this instance , given the brevity of the books, I decided to read each one of them first, and review them all together in one review. You’re welcome.

1 hero of dreams

  • Volume 1: Hero Of Dreams

Something vital is missing from David Hero’s comfortable, ordinary existence. One day is much like the next, simple, predictable…boring. But the nights! Each night David Hero finds himself transported to a marvelous world where brave men and women battle terrible creatures possessed of cruel, dark powers. Despite his fears, the Dreamworlds tempt David, drawing him farther and farther from the waking world. Here he finds noble warriors; beautiful, loving women; and challenges almost greater than he can imagine.

2 ship of dreams

  • Volume 2: Ship Of Dreams

Once David Hero was an ordinary man living in the real world. Now he is trapped in the Dreamlands, cut off from the waking world. David Hero’s dreams and nightmares have become his only reality. Led by wickedly beautiful Queen Zura, the zombie armies of the dead are on the march. They will destroy the beautiful Dreamlands, making them a permanent, deadly nightmare. Unaware of the marauding zombies, David Hero and his friend Eldin voyage through the clouds in a wondrous skyship. their journey is interrupted by a pack of faceless nightgaunts, terrifying creatures, half-man and half-bat–and all evil! David Hero is one of Zura’s first targets. As a man of the waking world, he can withstand her terrible seductive power and shatter her shambling armies. David Hero must be the first Dreamlands hero to die.

3 mad moon of dreams

  • Volume 3: Mad Moon Of Dreams

Swollen, glowing oddly in the gloom of night, the moon hangs lower and lower over the Dreamlands. Its weird, unearthly light transforms beautiful landscapes into twisted nightmares and imperils the sanity of any who walk abroad after sunset. Beams of terrible power stab the unsuspecting earth, destroying the land, shattering buildings, and dragging people into the shrieking sky, straight toward the hellish moon! David Hero, once a man of the waking world, finds himself fighting side by side with his worst enemies–Zura and her zombie armies, the Eidolon Lathi and her termite men–against the slimy, many-tentacled moon monster.

4 iced on aran

  • Volume 4: Iced On Aran

Atop the Dreamlands’ most majestic mountain is an unusual sculpture garden, featuring statues of the Dreamlands’ legendary heroes. For generations insane artists have created and tended the glistening statues of ice. Each hero is represented by twin portraits–perfectly matched except for the expressions of horror frozen into one of each pair! Seated on a chilly rock, David Hero is the mad sculptor’s newest subject. He sees nothing to account for the fear and dread on the icy faces that surround him. Until he attempts to rise from his pedestal–and discovers that the rock is not the only thing shrouded in ice! Trapped by black sorcery, David Hero has only one chance at escape.

Overall…yeah, this entire series was kind of a slog to get through. I’m not really that big of a fan of the pulp style that Lumley utilizes in a lot of his mythos stories, and here it’s just about as purple prose and over-the-top as they get. After the first book, the two main characters–who were both members of the waking world–get permanently stuck in the Dreamlands due to their real selves dying off at the end of the first book. I would think that the saga would have been a bit more interesting had there been a kind of contrast between the two reconciling their waking and dreaming identities in their lives. But, apparently that kind of dichotomy was too much to explore. Keep things with the swashbuckling swords and sorcery daring-do and all that.

Truth be told, it took me far longer than it should have to get through this series. The first book I had to pick up as an eBook, as I couldn’t find it in physical form anywhere. Regardless, I probably won’t be reading these again any time soon.

 

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Book Review: PSYCHOSPHERE

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brian lumley psychosphereBrian Lumley
Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.
1984

A machine, Psychomech, granted Richard Garrison great and terrible mental powers–strength enough to restore his dead love and vanquish his enemies. Through Psychomech, too, Garrison learned of the Psychosphere, another plane where mental powers ruled supreme–and where Garrison was sole tenant. Now a new mind has entered the Psychosphere, a mind twisted and evil and bent on controling the Earth. Richard Garrison must discover the owner of that mind–and destroy it!

The second book in Lumley’s Psychomech trilogy, continuing with the goings on with former Army Corporal turned demigod Richard Garrison, his zombie wife and the dog who loves him.

I had to pause for a few minutes to take in what I just wrote, there. Anyway, the plot of this book…

Ever since the events in Psychomech, Richard Garrison has been rendered, not really a full-on god, but at least powerful enough to give Gozer a run for his/her/it’s money, with two other consciences dwelling within his…head? Is that right? Anyway, with all of this PHENOMINAL COSMIC POWER!, he spends his free time gambling and making enemies with the mob. Everyone needs a hobby, I guess. There is a problem, though–Garrison is slowly leaking the power he has, mostly due to wrecking the Psychomech pretty badly in the previous novel, and the other two consciences are coming out to play more often than not. Also, Vicki is beginning to think that she no longer loves Garrison like she thought. Oh, and there’s an obese albino hermaphrodite psychic in an underground fortress attempting to take over the world in there, somewhere.

Psychospere was…interesting. It starts off as a pretty intriguing thriller, then gets weird as the story progresses. This may be due to the obese albino hermaphrodite psychic character. I just like writing all of that out. This character is about as powerful as (apologies for mixing geek references, here) Professor Xavier, if not moreso, and really has a thing for hedonistic orgies that would make Caligula blush. Like with the first book, the parts that seemed to drag more in the story were the parts where Garrison is in his head reality, dreamstate kinda place (the psychospere? it’s never really explained fully what that titular thing is), dragging around the remains of the psychomech and slowly losing power. The big ending conflict was decent, and the way Garrison resets everything was interesting. Overall, I would say Psychospere, like the first entry in the trilogy, was a bit overlong but interesting enough to finish. Is that considered damning with faint praise? I could never get a grasp on that concept…

Book Review: PSYCHOMECH

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psychomechBrian Lumley
Tor
1983

The terrorist bomb blast ‘introduced’ two very different men: multimillionaire Thomas Schroeder and British Army Corporal Richard Garrison. The industrialist welcomed the army man to his mountain retreat, endowed him with wealth, and introduced him to the one woman he would always love. Blinded in the inferno, Garrison at first though that Schroeder’s kindness sprang from gratitude and guilt. But when Schroeder revealed the unique mental abilities he and Garrison shared and his plan to cheat death, Garrison began to wonder about Schroeder’s true motivations. Was he Thomas Schroeder’s friend or the test subject for Schroeder’s dreams of reincarnation?

So, in my on-going quest to try and read everything that Brian Lumley has written that is not in some way tied in with his Necroscope series, I began this first book in what is known as the Psychomech Trilogy. And after reading the titular first novel, my first thought after closing the book was, “There are two more of these to get through.” It wasn’t that it was a tedious slog to get through, it’s just that Lumley does have a talent for turning what could be a 250 page story into 400+ pages. The man is big on purple prose and exposition, he is. And I typed out that last bit in a cheesy Cockney accent in my head.

Bit of a backstory here, before we proceed: I first came across the second book in this trilogy at a now-defunct small used book store over fifteen or so years ago. Since I have this kind of OCD about reading series books out of order, I decided to hold onto this one until I could find the other two. That was easier said than done, as I didn’t come across those in physical mass market paperback form until I spotted them both at (say it with me) Half Price Books. Goodie for me. Only, there was already a bit of a reading que, so getting around to actually reading them took another couple of years (yeah, I may have an addiction, here). But finally, I was able to get to them, and now, if you haven’t given up and moved on to something more exciting on the Internet, here is the first of the three.

Thomas Schroeder is a very rich and powerful German industrialist who is in Ireland at the beginning of the story on business with the IRA, who have kidnapped his wife. He manages to get the best of them, but then he learns of a bomb they planted in his hotel room, of which he’s saved from by the brave actions of one Corporal Richard Garrison of the Royal Military Police, which results in the loss of Corporal Garrison’s vision. Not to worry, as Schroeder feels rather indebted to him for saving not only his life, but also the lives of his wife and infant son, that he brings Garrison to his rather swanky digs in Germany, to try and help him see again. Of course, there’s more to Shroeder’s intentions than just that, and while Garrison doesn’t seem to mind, it is hard to get a bead on whether things are a bit more sinister or not. It involves ESP and a bit of the old advanced horoscope drowsing made all sciency and stuff. Meanwhile, in Plot B, there’s this former Nazi officer who once tried to build a machine to create supermen for Hitler during World War II. Of course, now that he’s in hiding under an assumed name and life, he’s once again trying to build the machine, along with a psychiatrist who’s employing the Nazi as a gardener, under the guise of building a psychiatric machine to help alleviate one’s fears, called the Psychomech. Mech-mech-mech. Anyway, Schroeder dies, leaving all of his wealth and land to Garrison, along with Schroeder’s life long companion and bodyguard, named Willy Koenig. Not too long after that, Garrison marries a woman who just so happens to be having an affair with the psychiatrist that has built Psychomech, and after a couple of years of marriage, decides to dissolve their marriage by way of an overdose on the Psychomech itself. Only, instead of killing him, Garrison turns into a god, resurrects his long-dead-of-cancer first love, and absorbs Willy Koening into his being, along with Thomas Schroeder. The end.

As mentioned previously, Lumley does do a lot of exposition, quite a bit of dialog in his stories. Fortunately, he’s good at it, otherwise this would have been a slog to get through. Instead, Psychomech was decent, engaging with some slow parts, yes, but overall really creating a good sci-fi yarn that wasn’t really what I was expecting. I didn’t go into excessive detail with the story recap, as there is a lot of scenes involving a subconscious dream state that, while I understand it’s there to establish what the Psychomech machine is all about, was probably the least favorite parts of the book for me. And the ending is one of those abrupt kinds that made me go, “Well, that happened” when it got to the last page.

The Psychomech trilogy is probably Lumley’s more obscure series of novels, and judging by this first book, I can see why. Worth a look-see.

Book Review: The TAINT AND OTHER NOVELLAS

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1-28 - Book Review: The TAINT AND OTHER NOVELLASBrian Lumley
Solaris
2008

A collection of thrilling tales inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos from one of horror’s biggest legends. This volume contains the very best of Brian Lumley’s Mythos novellas spanning the entire breadth of his illustrious career. From “Rising With Surtsey” through to the eponymous “The Taint”, these tales plumb the very depths of horror and show Lumely at his twisted best.

Going through the history of the life of H. P. Lovecraft, it was pretty much not only known that he didn’t mind other authors playing around in the nightmarish Mythos Cycle playground he created, but at times actually admitted to certain other authors handling the creations better than he could, giving freely to others the right to tinker with these concepts.

In case you were wondering what all of that has to do with this review of an anthology book by Brian Lumley, then let me take the time to welcome you to the world of horror fiction, and one of the more prolific of the Extended Mythos writers.

Just a very brief bit on Brian Lumley: He first discovered H. P. Lovecraft’s stories while he was serving in the British military, happening upon a well-loved paperback copy of reprints of his stories from Arkham Press. Shortly thereafter, he began to write his own stories which borrowed heavily from the world that Lovecraft created (and which so many others happily play in), and over time amassed a rather prolific collection. It wasn’t until recently, though, when his work began to find an audience here in the United States, after his Necroscope series exploded, and his older works began to be reprinted here for our reading pleasure. Even now, though, it’s kind of a fun hunt-and-peck game to find anything by Lumley that isn’t somehow associated with the Necroscope series. Fortunately, some are easier to find than others.

The Taint and Other Novellas happens to be the first in a two-book collection of short stories and novellas of those stories that were specifically written in the Lovecraft Mythos Cycle. After an introduction, the stories contained are “The Horror at Oakdeene”, “Born of the Winds”, “The Fairground Horror”, “The Taint”, “Rising with Surtsey”, “Lord of the Worms” and “The House of the Temple”. These stories represent works that Lumley did while still a Military Policeman, and not yet writing full time, and date from between the 1960s and 1980s. I’ve always kind of found Lumley to have an unabashed pulp style to his writing, and it doesn’t get much pulpy than his earlier Mythos stories, as showcased in this collection.

Overall, I found the collection…interesting. As I mentioned, there’s a raw, pulpy style to the writing, and probably due to the fact that these were early outputs, seems a bit more purple in prose than his later established work. The standouts were “Born of the Winds” (which was set in Canada and dealt more with a Windigo type creature) and “The Taint” (which, was actually written in 2002, 2003 and is the most recent story in the collection), which took a deeper look at the curse of Innsmouth. Titus Crow makes an appearance again in the story “Lord of the Worms”. I must say, though, the stories didn’t really stick with me much, which is not a slam to the quality; there just wasn’t much as far as doing something fresh with the concepts that Lovecraft left for us to mess with. Again, they’re early stories, and he got better with age. I would say, The Taint and Other Novellas is a collection for completists who are trying to collect ALL of the Mythos stories. Which is why I have this still. Otherwise, novice curiosity types could stand to hold off for a bit.

Book Review: MAZE OF WORLDS

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maze of worldsBrian Lumley
Tor
1998

Maze Of Worlds is the sequel to 1990’s The House Of Doors; in the UK, it was under the title The House Of Doors: The Second Visit…which, I’m rather glad they went with Maze of Worlds for the release here in the States. Even though that title is a bit of a misnomer than the more accurate UK title. Lemme explain.

With a title like Maze of Worlds, you might be thinking that the concept of the first book would be expounded upon, going through various different dimensions and various other alien “houses” and having to dodge new enemies that were hinted at in the first novel, rather than rehash virtually the same plot of the first, with many of the same characters with only a couple of new ones, in the same circumstances, with massive amounts of deja-vu hitting your head like so much rotten produce. And this is exactly what Maze Of Worlds is: A rehash of The House of Doors, with the same characters (and archetypes), only a small handful of new characters substituting for the original ones that weren’t written into the story, the same villain, and while the newer antagonists that were hinted at in the ending of the first novel do show up at the beginning, putting three different Houses of Doors, the majority of the adventure is spent in the original re-activated castle from the first novel, going through the same scenarios as the last time, and even going so far as having the characters talk at length about the last time they were there. In other words, Maze of Worlds was a massively wasted opportunity, with a reheated plot with just a bit of different kind of garnishing to make things seem different.

Look, I enjoy me some Lumely. I really do. And the first novel was enjoyable. It’s just that, after reading Maze of Worlds, I got the sense that I could have just skipped it, because I had already read the first one. Not a total waste, but could have been something more than just warmed-up leftovers.

Sunday A’La Carte – August 24, 2014

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rogue black holeSunday again. Gotta tell you, this weekend really sucked. Sucked so hard, light could not escape its gravitational pull, kinda sucking. And there doesn’t seem to be much end in sight. So I’ll just get right to it, here.

I attended the funeral of another cousin yesterday. If I say he was far too young, it’s because he was far too young. I understand that everyone says that about everyone; in this case, he was only 42, a scant two years older than myself. And his older brother died from cancer when he was only 40, about four years ago prior. In cases like this, I always feel like it’s my civic duty (in a manner of speaking) to just be there, not really say anything and grieve the best way possible, without bringing others down around with me. I don’t try and say the right thing, because really, who can? And I certainly will never, ever use those tired old bumper sticker platitudes that people use that think mean something, but don’t. Things like, “God has a plan”, or “When God closes a door, he opens another one”, or “Here’s a casserole, I’ll just put it with the others.” Okay, maybe that last one has nothing to do with stupid pat statements said to the grieving. There’s only so much green bean casserole you can accept before things star getting awkward, though. Now I’m rambling. Sorry. Point is, goodbye Jerry. I shall eulogize you in upcoming days, give or take. Still trying to get my jumbled thoughts together on that one.

if silence looks away from a weeping angelThis weekend was also the weekend of a new Doctor Who episode. Yesterday (that being Saturday, August 23rd for those of you playing at home), after having been on holiday since the 2013 Christmas Special, which saw Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor regenerate into Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor at the end, the Eight Season had finally arrived, and Whovians everywhere gathered to watch the 80 minute premier of “Deep Breath”. I waited until today to watch it, along with my Nephew/Godson, because who else am I going to watch it with? It’s not like I have anyone special to share this interest with anymore. Overall, I found this kick-off episode introducing the new Doctor…interesting. I may have to rewatch the episode, because there was some competition coming from a younger nephew that wanted to play loudly, and a bunch of puppies still trying to be weaned off of the mama doggie. But, here’s some randumb thoughts I had:

–I wonder if the whole Clara having trouble coming to grips with the much older-looking Doctor after so much time with a much younger Doctor (the bad age makeup in The Time Of The Doctor notwithstanding) was a kind-of dig at the New-vian fangirls who were whining about Capaldi being the Doctor instead of some other hunky something-or-other? I like to think it is.
–Strax complementing Clara on her spleen. Comedy gold.
–I’m sorry, but are you two married? I’m afraid I didn’t get it the first five or six times you obligatorily said that. What was that definition of Ad Nausium, again?
–So, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t there a reference some time ago that the actual weight of the TARDIS was (scientifically speaking) a whole bunch of tons? Does that “Relative Dimensions” part also mean that it somehow doesn’t translate to the exterior? I know it’s just a show, but…it’s a question that has nagged me in many episodes that feature the transport of the TARDIS, and today it made me wonder, “Why isn’t that wagon busted under the weight? And how did they manage to get it up on there without several Victorian-era hernias suffered?” I’m thinking too much about this.
–FLAMING DINOSAUR!
–CALLBACK TO “THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE”!
–THE DOCTOR HAS A SCOTTISH ACCENT! Okay, I’ll take the Caps Lock off, now.
–an Ed Gein-inspired hot air balloon? Gotta admit, that’s kinda dark, even for me.
–it may have been the ranting speculations due to the post-regeneration madness, but I can’t be the only one thinking that the Doctor questioning how he came about this face has some kind of tie-in with “The Fires of Pompeii”, can I? Or am I over-thinking things again?
–CALLBACK TO “THE TIME OF THE DOCTOR”! That’s the last time I’ll do that, I promise.
–Huh…scary-looking crazy lady calling The Doctor her “boyfriend”. Say hello to this season’s over-arching mystery tie-in, folks.
–hey, second episode, and they’re already bringin’ out the Daleks.

like your autobiographyDidn’t do a lot of reading this week (see the paragraph at the beginning of this post), but I am going through Spawn of the Winds, an earlier Brian Lumley novel, featuring his take on the Elder Gods mythos, and his supernatural investigator-type Titus Crow. I think. So far, it’s just narration from a bunch of guys in a plane that were abducted by some nasty pseudo-deity named Ithaquoa or something or other.

loopSTUFF I’VE WRITTEN: Not too much this week, again, other than reviews of three Daniel Amos albums: Daniel Amos, Shotgun Angel, and MotorCycle. What can I say, other than my mind has been preoccupied with the goings-on and such.

STUFF OTHER PEOPLE HAVE WRITTEN: Found this rather interesting piece from the online Relevant Magazine site, about the Bible and profanity. Nicely done, gents.

kirk and spock 2014Time for me to take my leave. Get my beauty rest and all that. Another week ahead of me. So, I leave you all now with the Star Wars: The Radio Play, as it brought a much-needed laugh to my lips today, after so many days of oppressive sorrow. Cheers.

::END TRANSMISSION::