According to Brian Lumley’s introduction, ‘No Sharks In The Med’ is the third in a trio of Subterranean Press collections of his work, the previous volumes being ‘Haggopian And Other Stories’ and ‘The Taint And Other Novellas’. Those two collections were made up primarily of Lumley’s more Lovecraft-influenced tales. Indeed, some of them were straightforward Cthulhu Mythos stories of one sort or another.
Much of Lumley’s earlier work was distinctly Lovecraftian, but he quickly developed themes of his own and ‘No Sharks In The Med’ reflects that. The opening tale, ‘Fruiting Bodies’, typifies his style. It’s a very English story, damp and dark, set in a remote part of the northeast coastline Lumley seems to love so well. In it, the protagonist finds himself exploring an apparently abandoned cottage where an old friend used to live. Instead of his friend, though, he finds nothing but mould and decay. As the title of this work suggests, the fungal growths in the cottage – indeed, in the entire village – may be doing more than simply breaking down rotten wood.
‘The Luststone’ is an altogether different story, but developing one of Lumley’s favourite themes, it makes a connection between ritual magic from thousands of years ago with activities in the modern Britain. In this case, an orgiastic sacrifice performed to stave off catastrophe isn’t properly completed and instead manages to create something of great and evil influence. It’s a clever tale, told across two different time periods and three different sets of characters. As the tale progresses, the influence of the Luststone on them all becomes more apparent, But it’s also rather a grim tale, essentially one of sexual magic and rape.
Like ‘The Luststone’, ‘The Place Of Waiting’ is another story that plays with time as well as atmosphere, this time on the windswept moors of Dartmoor. It’s more a ghost story than anything else and has that sense of loss and loneliness that often characterises Lumley’s stories. Another of the things Lumley likes to co-opt the physical environment into the story, using it partly to create the right sense of foreboding and partly as an actual character in itself or, at least, as a real and palpable threat.
‘The Man Who Killed Kew Gardens’ may sound rather parochial, but it’s really a classic apocalyptic tale after the fashion of ‘The Day Of The Triffids’, but with a hefty dollop of ‘The Colour Out Of Space’ thrown in for good measure. Indeed, both those stories are expressly referenced by the narrator. In fact, this story can be read as a homage to Lovecraft’s ‘The Colour Out Of Space’, the general idea being that something from a meteorite doesn’t create strangeness in one small part of New England but instead triggers a global catastrophe. Woven into the story is the idea that just as life on Earth might have been started by organic material delivered from outer space so, too, might a second delivery of extra-terrestrial material rewrite existing life into a new form hostile to animal life.
There are twelve stories in this collection altogether, spanning a period running from 1976 to 2005. It’s a good collection, generally easy to read, though lacking the pace and punch of his best work (in particular, the ‘Necroscope’ series) and without any over-arching themes that might give the collection more meaning. At $40, this is obviously a book for Lumley fans, but they’ll probably enjoy it thanks to the entertaining breadth of dark fantasy on offer here.
(pub: Subterranean Press. 315 page deluxe hardback. Price: $ 40.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-434-8)
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