“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.”
These are the words that open Julian Miles’ latest novella, and they are portentous indeed.
For a story involved in the cthulhu mythos, this novella is a refreshing surprise, free from the trappings of excessive fantasy meandering. From the very first paragraph, it steps straight into the action and doesn’t let up until the adventure is over.
We follow the story of ‘freelance security specialist’ Brannon Fitcham-Towers, a reclusive, troubled enigma of a man who would never dare describe himself as such. Everything about him is all business, all action, all practicality and serious dedication to his task, and he’s come to Tide Mills for a very important reason, the details of which are kept enticingly vague until the end of the novella nears.
But all the while, a shadowy ‘admirer’ is watching him, and a trail of bloodshed follows in its wake. Along the way Brannon brushes shoulders with the local constabulary, and a whole host of side characters who end up embroiled in this arcane, unreal situation.
It’s a wonderfully-constructed tale, one which manages to be both terrifying and intriguing, and combined with the captivating prose (staccato sentences and lean, vivid descriptions), you’ll find it hard to put the book down.
One thing I particularly enjoyed was the way Brannon’s mental state was descibed through action, the way his experiences and his instability was described through vivid, and very unique, writing style. This gave me such a clear idea of what he was going through without having to have it laboriously described to me. And honestly, it did not matter that some was kept intentionally vague until toward the end – for this put me directly in his position, and I felt as though experiencing the story from within one part of Brannon’s mind.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the way the monsters were included. Classic Lovecraftian fare, but the way they were introduced was so alien, so other, that at first I was quite shocked and scared – almost expecting wingbeats and a thud against my own windowpane as I read. By the end of the novel I both loved and feared The Tide, as they are called.
All in all, this was a tight read and is definitely recommended. Be sure to catch the author at this year’s Wyntercon, or check out his website here.