Post by Patricia Uttaro on Jan 2, 2011 19:22:12 GMT -5
The Poison Belt by Arthur Conan Doyle
Not many people are aware that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote more than the Sherlock Holmes stories. Doyle was a curious man and wrote many stories that today might be classified as science fiction. Take a peek at The Lost World (a 1912 classic) that imagined dinosaurs alive on earth long before Jurassic Park.
The Poison Belt suggests a murder mystery, but is in fact a nice little piece of speculative fiction in which Doyle imagines the course of events that would occur should the Earth “swim through the poisonous current which swirls like the Gulf Stream through the ocean of ether.” The story begins with journalist Mr. Malone being dispatched to interview his friend Professor Challenger. Those readers familiar with Doyle’s The Lost World will recognize the characters here – Malone and Challenger return, as well as Professor Summerlee and Lord John Roxton.
Professor Challenger has postulated through a letter in the London Times that the Earth has moved into a “poisonous belt” of atmosphere that is responsible for significant changes in the color spectrum as well as for widespread illness and panic in other parts of the world. Malone is dispatched to Challenger’s country home to get the story, but at the same time receives a summons from Challenger imploring him to “bring oxygen!” Malone meets Summerlee and Roxton on the way, they too having been summoned to Challenger in the same mysterious way.
Once they arrive at their destination, the three friends discover an excited Challenger who informs them they have but few hours to live before they also succumb to the poison belt. Challenger, genius that he is, has devised a way for the friends to last a little longer by sealing a room in his house. The room is furnished it with food and oxygen, which he believes will allow the friends to breathe and live beyond the rest of the household and neighborhood. As the day lengthens into night, the friends observe many terrible sights, such as a train running amok and eventually crashing into one giant heap, neighbors apparently dropping dead where they stand, and fires apparently burning great cities such as Brighton.
Our Mr. Malone, reporter to the end, records his observations and feelings as the night moves into day. As the sun rises, the friends see they are nearing the end of their oxygen supply and decide to meet death head-on. In a grand gesture, the window is thrown open and all prepare to meet their deaths. Or do they?
I was unprepared for the depth of Doyle’s speculation and found it quite refreshing. I am an avid Sherlock Holmes fan and hadn’t read anything else by the author, so this was a treat. Doyle’s rendition of what the world would be like after a catastrophic event is haunting, especially in a scene where a bell rings out over a London completely devoid of life. If Doyle had thrown in a few zombies or vampires, I might have thought I was reading Richard Matheson!
Post by Patricia Uttaro on Apr 23, 2011 19:31:03 GMT -5
Carnacki the Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson
True, the original Carnacki collection was published in 1913, but it was re-issued in 1947 and created a stir in a world recovering from the horror or human war. The character of Carnacki is a cross between Sherlock Holmes and VanHelsing, a man who uses intellect and science to battle forces of darkness. I’m betting Carnacki was also the model for one of my all-time favorite TV shows, the 1970’s classic The Night Stalker, starring the magnificent Darren McGavin as Karl Kolchak.
This collection of short stories follows the adventures of Carnacki, a ghost finder, who is called in to investigate all sorts of supernatural goings on, usually in the English countryside. The stories are told to a group of Carnacki’s friends as they gather for dinner at his home. In each story, Carnacki approaches the supernatural activity with a healthy dose of skepticism tempered by a real belief in the unknown, a bag full of equipment, and his trusty camera. Through the course of these stories, Carnacki battles a huge hand, an enormous pair of lips that whistle a horrifying tune, and a group of very human smugglers “haunting” a castle, among others.
I was reminded of the old pulp comics while reading this one, and I bet I could find a Carnacki comic if I looked hard enough. This is an entertaining, light read for fans of the horror genre. Not terribly gruesome but certainly very spooky and lots of fun.