Saturday, June 8, 2013

Return From The Dead!

I like a good mummy story. And Return from the Dead, a collection from Wordsworth Publishers edited by David Stuart Davies, offers up a heaping helping of some truly classic mummy tales.

The collection features five different and distinctive mummy stories.

The lead piece which takes up the overwhelming portion of the collection is Bram Stoker's The Jewel in the Seven Stars. I've traditionally really liked this story, in many ways better than Dracula, though I've altered that opinion recently. The early parts of the tale have a riveting tension as mysterious events unfold in a the mansion of a mysterious Egyptologist who has been found in a trance by his equally mysterious daughter. The tale is told from the perspective of a young lawyer who of course is in love with the daughter and gets drawn deeper and deeper into a rather complex mystery concerning an ancient Egyptian queen and her rather peculiar cat. The story apparently had an original ending deemed too dreary for repeated publication and Stoker reportedly rewrote the denoument on his deathbed to give the tale a bit more of an upbeat send off. I don't think I've ever seen the original ending which is supplied here alongside the revised version, and I find the original compelling myself though quite stark.

Jane Webb Loudon's The Mummy is an old science fiction novel which showcases an Egypt of the future but concerns a mummy from the distant past. The tone of this story is oddball to say the least, but then we only get an extract from the 1827 novel. Based on this extract, I can let the complete tale alone for now.

Edgar Allan Poe is aboard with his story "Some Words with a Mummy". Sadly I didn't care for it. I have to be in a particular mood for Poe and I just wasn't in this instance. I find him rather dense if I'm not really up to unraveling his prose.

More compelling were two stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. These classics, which I've read before were really entertaining this time out.

"The Ring of Thoth" is the story which reportedly inspired the classic Universal movie starring Boris Karloff. I've long found The Mummy a more complete atmospheric horror than the much more famous Frankenstein. This story does indeed weave a tale about an eternal love and the perversions of nature which forms a core quite similar to that which motivates the famous horror classic. The descriptions of long-weathered skin and reptilian eyes immediately evoked the classic Karloff look.

"Lot 249" is much more of a thriller, offering up a brisk tale of a strange man and the mummy he keeps in his apartment which might be a bit more mobile than such long dead things are supposed to be. This one has got some very tasty horror scenes, some genuinely scary stuff.

All in all a very entertaining collection, and well worth the small price of admission.

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