body horror

[Book Review] The Sea of Ash (Scott Thomas, 2009) ★★★★☆

cover The Sea of Ash by Scott Thomas

The Sea of Ash brings cosmic horrors and antiquarian ghost stories back to life. 


The Sea of Ash is a Lovecraftian cosmic supernatural mystery horror story that tells the horrific tales of three paranormal explores, each stepping in the footsteps of their predecessor. Resulting in a unique and fun structure, each step unraveling some more of the cosmic horrors and terrifying mysteries that lay beyond our world. 

It’s a disturbing tale with wondrous but horrifying creatures. Just like the Victorian ghost stories or Lovecraftian stories it’s all about the journey, the gruesome and creepy discoveries and not about solving the mystery. Some mysteries can’t be completely solved, but it heeds a warning to all too curious men.


Plot

The nameless narrator now has the opportunity to go on a trip which Dr. Albert Pond has taken before him nearly 100 years earlier. After Pond found a strange woman and an even stranger baby with a void for a face, to another dimension, he thinks there’s more to our world than we see or think. After she mysteriously disappears he sets on a journey to investigate this woman and the strange occurrences and stumbles on the work of Simon Brinklow who went on the same mission before him. 

Now our narrator, lover of esoteric books, wants to look into this weird tale of fiction to see if there’s some truth to it, but soon he’s in over his head. 


Why you should read it

The uncanny tale is highly original and imaginative bringing new wondrous creatures to our world in a most horrible and highly enigmatic way. It tells about three men, Dr. Albert Pond, Simon Brinklow and the nameless narrator who follows the trail of Pond, using Pond’s book published by his friend Nigel after his disappearance. It has a creative story within a story structure, that slowly unravels.

Without ever meeting one another, just reading about their predecessor, and their notes makes it an antiquarian ghost story to the likes of the stories by M.R. James. The narrator reads the story written by Pond and that story is slowly told to us readers, at well placed times and places. While Pond also reads about Brinklow and tells his readings in his own book. 

Written in the present tense and in the first person, the narrator takes us with him on his journey, telling us more about his findings, but importantly about what Pond found out. And Pond on his turn tells us more about the journey Brinklow was on, in the past tense, discriminating between narrators. 

It’s a structure that works very well to unravel the mystery, but also builds up the horror towards a very uncanny and thrilling ending and maybe some closure. It’s an exciting trip to exciting mysterious places and eccentric people.

Slowly the mystery unravels, finding more supernatural and uncanny things on his way. The big question is, if Pond or Brinklow both were madmen, or if there’s some truth to all of this. And if it’s true, what does it all mean?

The creature, the trilobite figures are originally crafted, although the term trilobite pops up a bit too many times. But it certainly adds to the creepy and uncanny atmosphere. The pace isn’t slow but takes the time to lay out the mystery before us and let the creepy things sink in. 

The way the void is created is very imaginative and original and the whole story is a perfect way to creep into your imagination. Very much everything stays a mystery, only revealing what is needed to grasp what it was all about, making it all the more scary. Just like Lovecraft or M.R. James did to their readers. Keeping it elusive is keeping it horrifying. 

It’s a well-crafted story that’s very enthralling and can creep under your skin. It’s a short little story and a perfect read to traverse this ominous journey in one go. Taking you to different places, each hiding something uncanny or even unimaginable.


My favorite part

I really liked the little clues Brinklow and Pond are following. It takes them each time a little step towards unraveling the mystery, encountering even stranger things. As for the narrator, he might be the least interesting because he’s more passive, that is, until he himself experiences some very weird events. Then he’s involved too. 

The Archangelo Banchini’s Spirit Machine is a great find. It’s a wondrous piece of machinery that really brings more supernatural and bizarre horror to the story, for the narrator, but especially for Pond. What happens to him next, is too weird, and a very imaginative and strange idea to come up with and causes a huge twist at the end. 

But Fractured Harry is a fun character as well, a very original creature, that speaks to the imagination. He’s a mysterious figure, a wonderful creation and a nice surprise.

If you’re looking for some modern cosmic horror that relates to the Victorian age as well, this is the one to read. You certainly won’t be disappointed. 


A favorite quote

‘To quote his journal: “ A seashell was set in place where the child’s features ought have been. It was a scallop shell, evenly ribbed, dull white in color, but for a slight mossy hue. It measured three and a half inches by three and three-eights inches. The shell was embedded. Flesh framed the outermost edges fastening the mask in place”’


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★☆

Scare factor: ★★★☆☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★☆☆

Originality factor: ★★★★★


Info

The Sea of Ash is written by Scott Thomas and first published 2009, and republished by Lovecraft eZine Press in 2014. It consists of 95 pages.


cover The Sea of Ash by Scott Thomas

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