Sunday, May 26, 2013

Book Review—The Feaster From Afar

A few weeks ago, I wrote about blobs for a Monster Day post, and in said post I mentioned in the Recommended Reading list a short story called "Slime," by Joseph Payne Brennan. I'd read the story in an old anthology decades ago, likely something I borrowed from the Bookmobile or the elementary school library, and I'd long since forgotten the name of the anthology. But, obviously, I hadn't forgotten the name of the story itself.

In the decades since, I've become quite the afficionodo of weird fiction, but for some reason, I've managed to get this far having read only one or two of Joseph Payne Brennan's stories. The blob post reminded me of him, and I sought out collections of his works to buy. But I was vexed by the fact that there weren't many nice, hardcover copies in print. There were a few out of print books that looked great (including an Arkham House edition of one that'll be reviewed here soon), but none of them contained "Slime."

Except for one—The Feaster From Afar.

It's fun reading well-selected anthologies of short fiction by single authors, because you can spot themes in their writing. Joseph Payne Brennan often writes in these stories of desolation and forgotten things; of ancient neighborhoods being torn down and replaced by soulless modern architecture, of lichen-encrusted hills and foul swamplands, and of course of weirder things. Vengeful corpses. Space Vampires. Carnivorous Slugs. Great Old Ones. And, of course, Slime. In fact, here's a list of the monsters and fiends and horrors to be found in this anthology:

Carnivorous slimes, undead hulking corpses, drowned dead, witch-cursed devolved humans, ancient elementals, minions of the Great Old Ones, infernal shades and specters, aberrant horrors from other dimensions, vengeful revenants, primeval masses of woodlands-haunting tentacles, swarming man-eating slugs, memory eating vampires from the dawn of time and space, planet-ending hordes of radioactive mutant rats, what lies beyond the edge of the universe, demons wearing ancestors as shells, lonely ghosts, Hastur, blood-drinking plants, graverobbers, squamous horrors below old graveyards, spirit snatching demons, cursed voodoo dolls, and vengeful mummies.

Joseph Payne Brennan
So, yeah. Pretty awesome book. My favorite five stories? Vampires from the Void, The Feaster From Afar, The Business about Fred, The Gulf of Night, and of course Slime.

The Feaster From Afar...
  • ... combines the classic pulpy Lovecraftian themes from the mid 20s with the best of the 50s science fiction movies.
  • ... is filled to the rim with great ideas for plots for Call of Cthulhu games.
  • ... bears the words "The Selected Weird Tales Volume One," yet it appears that the next volume(s) are dead in the water. Sadness!
Grade: A+

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