Ahoy there me mateys! Blustery winds and crazy seas are still severely limiting the time I have to read. So here be a Tidings post with a twist! The First Mate has been reading like a fiend. I
ordered asked him to write a review of something he recently read because I be going through withdraw and NEED to hear about books. At the end of his review I will decide whether the book is kept in the hold for me future reading pleasure or be keelhauled into the watery depths. Hope ye enjoy!
From the First Mate:
As a teen I was a huge fan of Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series. A division of British Intelligence fighting against vampires set during the waning days of the Cold War with positively gorgeous Bob Eggelton covers? Yeah, they were incredibly schlocky and totally up my alley. I read every book in the series that was published in the 90s, and I curiously never explored any Lumley’s work beyond that one particular series. Which is particularly odd as Lumley’s initial claim to fame was writing Lovecraft pastiches, and I was also a huge Lovecraft fanboy at the time (yes, I’ve gotten over it.)
Hero of Dreams follows after Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle, which was an interconnected series of short stories and novellas that posited a fantastical realm that could only be entered via dreams. Lumley takes the element of the dream world and uses it to tell an episodic low fantasy adventure. We follow David Hero and Professor Dingle (Hero and Eldin the Wanderer) as they pursue adventure in the dream world and try to quell the dissatisfaction they both feel with the real world.
Though Lumley has built the story around a Lovecraftian trope, the structure of the short novel really seems to be more in line with the serialized fantasy works of the 1930s by authors like Fritz Leiber and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Hero and Elin seek out adventure, fortune, and women. They find themselves in trouble, find their way out of trouble, and are pushed into the next adventure by some dangling thread from the last adventure. Highly episodic, and most of the resolution comes from pure pluck and will. There’s an overarching storyline involving an evil that was locked away thousands of years ago and some magical artifacts that Hero and Elin are questing to find, but really that’s just the frame onto which the episodic adventures are hung. There’s a sense that the proper form for the novel would’ve been to be broken into three or four pieces and published serially in a pulp magazine.
What’s really confounding about Hero of Dreams is why it’s not really any different than similar novels written in the 1930s. I haven’t read Lumley’s 70s Lovecraft pastiches (largely the Titus Crow works), but what I’ve read about them seems to indicate that he was updating the work to more modern conventions. Likewise, his Necroscope series conforms to 80s spy novel standards instead of hewing closer to, say, a Fleming style. It just seems so weird that Lumley would write the novel as though he were sending it off to be published in Weird Tales, and I think it’s poorer for it.
There’s a kinda-sorta twist at the end of the novel that could radically change one’s point of view on the preceding events or cause the future of the characters to be left in serious doubt. Mostly the twist left me thinking, “was that really necessary?” It appears that there are three more books in the series, but I’ll more than likely give them a pass. If I have a hankering for 1930s fantasy, I’ll probably just go to the source.
I suppose I’d recommend this to Lumley completists and readers who prefer what fantasy was like before Lord of the Rings fundamentally altered the genre in the 60s. Everyone else should really give it a pass; you’re not missing much.
Yer Captain’s Verdict:
KEELHAUL! Arrrr! This absolutely does not appeal to me. I have never been a Lovecraft fan and even the First Mate tells the crew not to read it. No thanks!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
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.
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