Goodbye to All This

The Last Revelation of Gla’aki by Ramsey Campbell (2013): Academic librarian Leonard Fairman travels to the small English coastal town of Gulshaw to collect the rarest set of books in the world — a complete set of The Revelations of Gla’aki, a mystic narrative thought to have been lost. The curiously…puffy townspeople are fairly cheery and helpful, but they will lead Fairman on something of a tour of the town in order to retrieve each volume from a different townsperson.

The precocious Campbell’s first published volume, The Inhabitant of the Lake, came out from Arkham House in 1964, when he was 18. Nearly 50 years later, he returns to Gla’aki, one of the Lovecraftian entities introduced in that book and mentioned in many of his stories and novels over the years.

While Gulshaw is a Town With A Secret, one of the most venerable of horror tropes, it’s the sort of weird town that happily welcomes the outsider. Welcomes him so much that everyone he meets seems to know his name and his mission. The food must be good in Gulshaw because everyone seems to have developed a weight problem. But everything Fairman eats has an odd sort of consistency. It’s not often that mouthfeel comes into a horror story.

The horror here builds gradually — like the attentions of the town itself, to quote a Stephen King title, it grows on you. And in you. There are echoes of H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” here, but as noted above, the people of Gulshaw aren’t inimical to visitors. Indeed, they’re very friendly to everyone who visits. There’s so much more to see in Gulshaw, you see. Or sea. Recommended.


The Pretence by Ramsey Campbell (2013): According to a New Age cult dubbed ‘The Finalists,’ tonight is the last night of the world. But that won’t stop Paul Slater from flying home from his ailing mother’s rest home to see wife Melanie and children Amy and Tom. And the world isn’t going to end just because a cult says it is. And Paul does make it home.

While the philosophical backbone of this novella is the nature of belief, it’s the increasingly fragile and desperate hold Paul Slater has on his family life that supplies the emotional engine of the whole thing. There are explanations for what happens as the story proceeds, but none of them could be considered authoritative.

The enigmatic nature of the narrative echoes some of Robert Aickman’s more mysterious stories, though with some decidedly contemporary imagery. Cell phones and texting assume a great amount of importance as the novella proceeds; so too do Slater’s musings on the nature of digital information as a reduction of the mediated universe to a fragile and infinitely malleable storm of bits. Love may keep a person grounded, but what happens when the idea of ground gives way? Recommended.

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