Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: The Last Revelation of Gla'aki by Ramsey Campbell

Ramsey Campbell is one of the most esteemed horror authors working today. With over twenty-five novels and hundreds of short stories to his name, Campbell has had a steady output in his writing career.

He started out as a teenager, writing Lovecraftian pastiches. August Derleth saw his potential, and told him to create his own locales instead of setting the stories in Lovecraft's own. Thus, his first collection, The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants, was published by Arkham House in 1964. The stories have since been reprinted in Cold Print, along with more of his Lovecraftian stories, and just recently PS Publishing did a reprint of Campbell's freshman collection with the restored title of The Inhabitant of the Lake and Other Unwelcome Tenants.

The title story, The Inhabitant of the Lake, was about an artist who moves into an abandoned house by a lake. His friend narrates the tale, and a good portion of the story is told through letters from the artist. Some of the history of the mysterious lakeside property is revealed as the story unfolds, and it soon becomes apparent that an ancient, malevolent entity called Glaaki resides in the lake, assisted by undead servitors.

Now, a year shy of the 50th anniversary of his first published collection, Mr. Campbell revisits Glaaki (now called Gla'aki) with this novella from PS Publishing.

I was pretty excited when I heard the news about this book. Not long after I had discovered Lovecraft and weird fiction, I found myself diving into Campbell's Lovecraftian offerings and finding them greatly enjoyable. Now, not only were they being revisited by the author, but they were being revisited after nearly fifty years of perfecting his craft as a writer.

The plot follows Leonard Fairman, an archivist for Brichester University, as he travels to the fog-shrouded seaside town of Gulshaw to acquire a set of rare books, The Revelations of Gla'aki. What should be a simple task soon becomes more complex, as Leonard must collect the books one at a time from various residents throughout the town. Things in the town are bizarre from the beginning, and the strange events/observations Leonard experiences become ever more frequent, until he starts to take some of them for granted.

The novella is a cross between weird horror and black "comedy of paranoia". Campbell blends the two perfectly, maintaining an eerie sense of wrongness about the town and it's inhabitants, while sprinkling dark humor throughout. The protagonist is an irritable man who struggles to be patient with acquiring the books, making for some pretty hilarious interactions with the absurd townfolk.

This novella is nothing short of a success. Seeing Campbell revisit one of his earliest published stories with the maturity and skill he has acquired over the years is a total delight. The Inhabitant of the Lake was Campbell trying to imitate Lovecraft, while The Last Revelation of Gla'aki is Campbell doing Campbell. Readers who enjoyed Campbell's older Lovecraftian offerings will no doubt want to pick this up, while fans of more current Campbell will be pleased with the tone of this book. Overall, a book readers should pick up.

The book can be bought directly from the publisher: HERE.

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