RogerBW's Blog

The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth, John Michael Greer 10 September 2020

2016 Lovecraftian SF, first of a series. Owen Merrill is a student at Miskatonic, doing his thesis on Rhetorics of Otherness in the Horror Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft

File this next to Ruthanna Emrys' Innsmouth Legacy, which started to come out the following year: it's another story that takes the approach that both Lovecraft and what he wrote about did actually exist, but doesn't regard his foreigner- and seafood-haunted perspective as the only valid one.

There's an odd dislocation of place and time: our hero was a soldier in Iraq, so I assume the story is meant to be more or less contemporary, but nobody has a mobile phone and the Internet is barely mentioned. There's also an awful lot of name-checking in the first chapters: if you don't know your Lovecraft, Smith, Machen, Howard, and so on, you may become quite frustrated at the way half the names are clearly Significant.

But then things change quite substantially, and the story proper gets going. And this isn't just doing the same thing as Emrys: there are cover-ups and rational explanations and everything can easily be explained away, until suddenly it can't and you're swimming in the deep water off the end of the pier.

This does mean that there's quite a bit of exposition, and even the action sequences seem to move quite slowly; it's all rather mannered. There are parts of Lovecraft that are simply ignored because they wouldn't fit well into the argument that's being constructed (or perhaps they'll be dealt with in later books). Still, if you want to write about a conspiracy behind large parts of civilisation without sounding like a paranoid idiot, Greer does a rather better job than Ernest Cline managed in Armada.

On the other side, and I'm guessing this may be because Greer feels that the ideas are more important than the people, our hero makes very few decisions of his own, and the Wise Mentor, Love Interest and Villain Whom The Hero Could Have Been are all rolled out on cue. Owen makes a few gestures to try to deal with the reader's disbelief at his ready acceptance of all the weirdness, but they never quite convince.

Fun, but with better characters could have been great.

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See also:
Armada, Ernest Cline
Winter Tide, Ruthanna Emrys

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