Friday, July 5, 2013

Into The Moon Pool!

I finally entered The Moon Pool. What I mean is that I have finally read A. Merritt's landmark science-fantasy which established his once immense reputation. I bought the book many years ago in a tawdry looking Avon paperback and sort of had the notion that I had sampled the book. But after reading it the last few days, I realize I must have never have done so before, or I would certainly have a more robust memory of it. The book is entrancing and lush and compelling reading for anyone with a yen for a rock solid yarn about classic macho heroes venturing into the unknown and who find both danger and romance on the other side.

The Moon Pool, the original novella was published in in All-Story Weekly in 1918 and proved to be a great success. It tells the tale of a haunted man named Throckmorton who tells his woeful to story to his friend and botanist Dr.Goodwin. He tells of his tragic expedition to a remote Pacific island where they encountered a bizarre and apparently dangerous entity which seemed to emerge from a mysterious stone portal and was empowered by the light of the Moon.

After the success of this story, Merritt wrote an elaborate sequel titled Conquest of the Moon Pool which ran in All-Story the next year. It develops from the weird story of man's tragedy to become a full-blown lost world saga with more than a whisper of the elaborate cosmology that would some years later inspired Lovecraft.

Goodwin is joined by larger-than-life hero Larry O'Keefe, a ferocious Irish-American who functions not unlike the golden-hued heroes of H.Rider Haggard. In fact the whole feel of this sprawling story is very much like a Haggard tale, told from the perspective of a humble man who is often very impressed by the people and things around him. This duo alongside Olaf Huldricksson, a giant Norwegian who has lost his wife and child enter the domain of the Dweller of the Moon Pool,  and encounter the society which at once fears and worships it. There is also a Russian scientist named Marakinoff who shows up to stick his meddlesome Commie nose into the works.

This is not remotely a realistic novel. The descriptions are lush and baroque, sometimes opaque, but always beautiful. Merritt's writing is commanding and while he loses me sometimes in the sheer density of the description, I feel confident I will emerge safely on the other side. The story streams along with a profoundly weird aura as we see armies of dwarves battle regiments of frog-people and behind it all the Dweller, his creators and his legions of souless nigh-dead. There is sex and death and even a hint of philosophy and science, all the trappings of a whopping and memorable adventure romp.

If you want to enter The Moon Pool, check out this link

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