The Sign in The Moonlight - Archieved Post

March 22, 2016 - 11:31 am No Comments

The Sign in the Moonlight
David Tallerman
Publisher: Digital Fiction
Page Count: 185 (eBook edition)
Release date: 2016
Reviewed by Chris Amies

In “The Sign in the Moonlight” David Tallerman presents us with fourteen pieces which range across a variety of genres, ghostly, fantastical and horrific. The title story is a weird tale set in the aftermath of black magician Aleister Crowley’s ill-fated 1905 attempt to climb Mount Kangchenjunga, the ‘Five Treasures of the Snows.’ Tallerman is clearly fond of late-Victorian and early 20th century weirdness: from the bizarre “A Twist too Far” with its fakirs and fakers to the Saki-esque “Algernon Whisper’s Karma,” the opening story “The Burning Room,” and “The War of the Rats” in which the horrific slaughter of WW1 reveals another, more surprising conflict. “The Untold Ghost” picks up some of the atmosphere of “The Burning Room” to give us a chill and straight-down-the-line ghost story. It is pared down to the bone in a very effective way, as are the bleakly monochrome “Prisoner of Peace” and the short but chill “The Desert Cold”: ‘like death, like the loss of love, a bleakness and a heartbreak.’

“The Untold Ghost” brings in another recurring theme and one that is at the heart of a good ghost story, the sense that something is (at first slightly) off; as the narrator of that story says, ‘its effect was simply that […] looked wrong’. This effect is common in HP Lovecraft, where it has been called a ‘wrong geometry.’ Many of the stories are Lovecraftian in the best way, echoing HPL’s fondness for odd civilisations and barbaric traditions, and never mind all the glubbling and unpronounceable names: “The Door beyond the Water” and “Caretaker in the Garden of Dreams” introduce us to the weird and shuddersome rituals of other worlds and strange cultures. As if to underline the distinction between what Lovecraft actually wrote and what people think he did, “My Friend Fishfinger by Daisy, Aged 7” indulges in playful overloading of Lovecraftian cliche with some of the names even being literally spelt out. Possibly playful but also deeply strange is “A Study in Red and White.”

Tallerman is also a writer of what is more conventionally known as Fantasy and this influences, among others, “A Stare from the Darkness” in which he once again overturns cliche in a way that makes for a better story. The final piece in the book, “The Way of the Leaves” is a tale set in a Northern English town and on the moors above, and moves from the 1970s to the present day with an elegiac sense of loss which the reader will find in other stories here as well.

The illustrations, by the very talented Duncan Kay are very much in keeping with the style of the book, spare and dark and weird by turns.

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