Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Elves, UFO's And Dimensional Travelers

I have read several short stories by Andre Norton, one of the first female Science Fiction writers, but for some reason have never actually picked up one of her full novels.  This has been remedied by reading Children of the Gates, which contains two of her novels.  The one I will ramble about today is the first one in the collection, Here Abide Monsters.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Nick Shaw is headed to his lake house for the weekend to escape a bit of a difficult situation at home.  He meets up with a young woman named Linda and her Peke dog Lung.  She is headed to a friends house and has to drive a road known as the Cut-Off which seems to be responsible for various peoples dissaperances over the years including Nicks own cousin a few years ago.  Nick has a bad feeling and offers to escort Linda to her friends house.  The two encounter a wall of fog and end up in another world.  They meet up with a band of people from 1940's Britain and learn that they have ended up in a very strange world indeed.  The natives of the world seem to be creatures that come from Earth myth, the theory being that they may have slipped through the same portals that brought the humans to this world, thus creating the myths.  There also appears to be humans from every era and place on Earth roaming around, some more violent then
others.  To top it all off, an unknown alien race is running around in their spaceships beaming people up and capturing them in their ships.  As the group hides and runs and hides and runs they tell the new comers that at some point a man called the Herald will come from one of the big shining protected cities and offer them a choice.  If they accept his offer, they will be protected from the violent factions and the aliens, but they will become changed, something not quite human.  Nick gets captured by a medieval group, intent on violence and some arcane sorcery.  Eventually they leave Nick tied to a tree in the hands of some very vicious monsters.  The Herald appears and tells Nick that if he accepts his offer he will be forever protected and part of this fantastic world.  Nick asks for more time to decide and the Herald tells him he has his own power.  Nick discovers with great concentration he can create illusion and manipulate objects.  He is reunited with his group, who learn that they too can use this new found power to varying degrees of success.  Nick has another conversation with the Herald and also one of the group who had accepted the Heralds offer.  The two tell Nick that a great evil is coming and unless the humans accept the offer, they will probably not survive.  This is where it gets a little mushy and I'm not quit sure what happens, but in the end a lot of the group dies and the rest decide to accept the Heralds offer and the change that comes with it.
I have mixed feelings about this story.  It starts off really awesome, written in the style of the old school SciFi that I LOVE!  There was tension, excitement, monsters, UFO's, choices, action, everything that should make a great story...but it never really came together for me.  The characters seemed half formed, like they had a story to tell, but couldn't quit get it out.  The story also suffered from a lack of clarity.  The best I could figure is that this world has something bad in it and the bad is just compounded by aliens and roving bands of lost Earthlings and the only way to be able to survive is to choose to change into one of the native Elf type people.  That was it, except it wasn't told that simply, there were innuendos, hints, there was the tease of a greater story, of a bigger picture, of a vast universe, but the story never really delivered.  The imagery was beautiful, there were certain scenes and passages that really stuck in my head as truly stunning.  The beginning was especially good.  I like how she wrote the knowing dread of Nick as the wall of fog rolled towards him, I loved the descriptions of some of the native inhabitants of this alternate world, I have decided I really need to go find some of the fantastic creatures from this world and make them my pets. Also the cover was awesome!  Overall I appreciated the imagery, but wanted a story that I could follow.  I give this book 6 out of 10 portals to another universe.

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