There is another world, but it is in this one.

Paul Eluard. Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, Gallimard, 1968.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Never visit Liverpool: Creatures of the Pool by Ramsey Campbell (2009)

"Old stories often turn out to be true."
-Arthur Machen, "The Children of the Pool" (1936).

No one does the hallucinatory experience of waking life flowing from insomnia or concussion better than Ramsey Campbell. (Though for a protagonist's plight with an actual fractured skull bone, David Morrell's 1994 thriller Assumed Identity takes the cake.)

In Campbell's 2009 novel Creatures of the Pool, it is Gavin Newsome who is fed through the author's unrelenting grist mill. In a Liverpool that seems on the verge of drowning in rain and its own cumulative macabre history, Gavin (first-person narrator, present-tense) feels like the last sane man. His dad, obsessed with local history, has disappeared. His mother is on the wrong side of senility. His girlfriend, who works at the city library, is spending a lot of time in its subterranean archives.

All of which leaves Gavin to hold on by the skin of his teeth. His business is leading walking tours, but the new city tourism office head (a U.S. transplant named Hank Waterworth) is slowly wrecking his livelihood.

As with most Campbell novels, dialogue
both conveys action and information, and doubles as commentary on the same.

Creatures is a puzzle chase, and Campbell pulls out all the stops as Gavin begins to fear he might have more in common with Liverpool's hidden history, geography, and citizenry than is safe. Or sane.

I posted some extended quotations here and here.

One little joke the author has at the expense of readers of Creatures is killing our taste for tap water. Not just killing it: making the prospect revolting.

So if you're visiting Liverpool, don't drink the water.

14 July 2019

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