Friday, March 22, 2013

Lies of Solace

Just finished Lies of Solace last night, a rather shortish (300 page) book of the Arkham Horror line, which is second in the so-called Lord of Nightmares trilogy (although I'm seeing few if any ties to the first novel in the series--although granted, its been many months since I read it, and my memory of the details is hazy.  That will be a problem going forward too, since the third book in the trilogy isn't even announced yet, as near as I can tell, much less available for sale.)  Different author, but similar feel to the earlier novel in the series.

There was quite a bit less of the noirish feel than in the earlier book, and more of a traditional Cthulhu-ish vibe, although "updated" to a slightly more action/pulpish feel.  Like the prior novel, it bounces back and forth chapter to chapter between different points of view; in this case, we have Dr. Fields, a man of science (and an elderly guy who feels much like a Lovecraftian "hero" in many cases, since he's skeptical of any weirdness or supernatural, and is hardly a man of any kind of action.)  Raker (no first name given) is a man who's fallen on hard time--to afford the lifestyle he feels he needs to for his fiance, a woman of some means from Arkham, he's given in to crime and bootlegging, but has now found himself on the wrong side of the mob.  And Jacqueline Fine is the fiance of another man of means and station, although she is a fraud, who's faking her own family ties, and lives with the fear of discovery over her at all times.

Under-cutting all of this is a cult called the Hand of Solace, where a body-hopping immortal is manipulating the grief of others to summon some kind of Lovecraftian entity for reasons that are not really very clear (until the end of the novel.)  Like the prior novel, it ends on a cliff-hangerish finale, the main characters are broken, killed or corrupted, and... well, in many respects it feels much more like a Call of Cthulhu game than an actual Lovecraft story.  That's not a point against it--in fact, I'd argue that it's a point in its favor in most respects, but there you have it.

Of course, it isn't technically Call of Cthulhu fiction, it's Arkham Horror fiction, although the difference is strictly academic and technical--it makes no difference to the content of the novel itself, and only minor difference to the trade dress of the novel's cover.  It doesn't necessarily feel like mainstream horror; it feels like tie-in fiction for a game that's loosely based on really old horror--which it is.  So, when I call this a horror novel (a claim that the book cover makes, by the way, although in my bookstore it was filed with the rest of the sci-fi/fantasy tie-in fiction) I mean that in a somewhat loose way.

Like many horror novels, however, it's a little slow getting moving.  Not so slow that it's boring, but definately so that when finished you can see momentum gathering until a point roughly two-thirds of the way through, at which point time kind of compresses and the last third is a non-stop, panicked run through a gallery of Lovecraftian nightmare.  Or rather; pastiche nightmare.  It is maybe much less subtle than an actual Lovecraftian stories, but I've often thought that the brilliance of the philosophy and approach of Lovecraft is maybe somewhat overstated--or at least his execution of it--so that although this feels different than Lovecraft, I hesitate to call it worse of inferior.

I quite enjoyed it, although again--I'm scratching my head a bit trying to figure out how this trilogy is anything other than unrelated stories with a handful of recurring ancillary characters (a woman in the Miskatonic University library comes to mind) and similar setting.  Maybe the third book will bring that together more?  Because of the disconnectedness of this "trilogy", I thought about picking up the second trilogy, Dark Waters, that FFG has published under the Arkham Horror name (which also has only two books so far) but I've got a library book from ILL that I have to read while I have it, and after that, frankly, I'll have lost my Cthulhu momentum... I'll probably turn to the Warhammer Nagash trilogy or something.  Either that or continue my Dave Gross Pathfiner books (I've got two more in my possession still that I need to read.)  Or start the Abyssal Plague trilogy for "generic" 4th edition D&D tie-in fiction.  Or maybe I'll finally read my copy of The Lies of Locke Lamora.



James Sullivan said...

I really, really enjoyed The Lies of Locke Lamora. Pretty good. Like Ocean's Eleven set in a fantasy Venice.

Joshua Dyal said...

I've had a copy for at least two or three years, and just haven't gotten around to reading it yet.