Friday, July 3, 2015


It's not in any way a secret that Dreams of Shreds & Tatters is meant as author Amanda Downum's extension of the Yellow King/Carcosa mythos developed by Robert W. Chambers and played with by the likes of Machen and Lovecraft. Just look at the cover. Indeed, I entered into this worried that it might all be a bit too on-the-nose and in-your-ribs. But I trusted the people who recommended this to me and kept going, and found it all no more unsubtle than the first season of True Detective in that regard.

I won't say that Downum has achieved a perfect modernization of Chambers weird oeuvre, for all its concern with artists and galleries and the new Europe of Canada, but rather that Downum has achieved something I find actually quite more satisfying; she's tackled the Yellow King as Tim Powers would, bringing the weird and the uncanny and the unholy and the numinous squarely into a plausible modern setting, peopled with sympathetically sketched modern characters who are themselves dealing with modern issues. All while extending the touchstone mythos just enough, and blending it beautifully with "real" mythology, chiefly the stories of Orpheus and the Maenads.

Downham's King is thoroughly part of the Yellow Book tradition. As one of the other archetypal figures we encounter describes him: "The King fancies himself a patron of the arts but he'll take anyone he can, anyone talented and foolish enough to find this place. He offers them visions. If they survive that he gives them power. In exchange for service."

The first to succumb to the King in Yellow's blandishments is Blake, a promising young artist who followed a lover and the prospect of greater recognition for his talents to Vancouver, where he has fallen in with a gallery owner, Rainer, who is more than he seems. But it's only when Liz, the best friend he left behind, follows her nightmares as to his fate across the continent to that city that we even begin to see Blake's true predicament: under Rainer's guidance, he has created a work of art that bridges the gap between the world of the King in Yellow and our own. By the time Liz catches up with Blake, his lover is dead and he's in a coma. And Rainer and girlfriend Antje are not being super forthcoming about all that.

Then there's Rae, sort of this book's Dondi Snayheever, a young goth-ish woman who has gotten hooked on it substance called Mania, which brings its users to the parallel and horrible world of Carcosa, here imagined as a city on a doomed planet orbiting the red giant star Aldebaran. It's in describing Rae's experiences that Downum really goes batty with the prose (which, really, you're going to read this novel for the prose and imagery more than for anything else):
"A shudder wracked her, strong enough to bring her to her knees, doubled over on the cold floorboards. Darkness spread through her veins, blue - black worms squirming under the skin of her wrists. Her teeth tingled and her mouth tasted of copper.* Her jaw ached with the effort of holding back a wild bacchanal cry."
No one escapes unscathed, including the reader. If, like many left hankering for more of his Yellow Majesty after last year's televisual exploration, or if you're getting antsy waiting for Tim Powers to crank out something new, check this one out. It'll take the edge off those cravings for a bit. It worked for me!

*These people taste copper a lot, by the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Sorry about the CAPTCHA, guys, but without it I was getting 4-5 comment spams an hour.