Saturday, November 06, 2010

Lewis (ed.), Null Immortalis (2010)

D.F. Lewis (ed.), Null Immortalis: Nemonymus #10. Weirdmonger Press, 2010. Pp. 328. ISSN 1474-2020. $10.00.

Reviewed by Jaym Gates

Null Immortalis is, in appearance, a handsome book, a trade paperback that just might be one of those things some intrepid bookstore explorer pulls off a shelf in twenty years because it catches their eye. Nine previous Nemonymous books have been released by editor Des Lewis, with number 10 the last of the series, and the first to have the author’s bylines attached to the stories. The cover is quite classic, soft colors and a slightly aged look, and gives little indication what might be within.

Nemonymous Ten contains 26 original pieces of fiction from different authors. The content has a literary tone, focusing inwards on the characters and events, with subtle genre influences; the quality of the writing is typically high. Some of the pieces are subtly terrifying, such as ‘The Return’, by S.D. Tullis, others, like ‘Turn Again’, by William Meikle, are sweetly nostalgic, and a couple (‘Lucien's Menagerie’!) are downright horrific. But many are of very similar flavor: internalized and meandering.

There’s a strong sense of conceit in this collection, and a lack of coherent purpose, or at least not any obvious purpose. The only binding threads are the meandering style and the use of the name ‘Tullis’. Too many of the stories ended with a feeling of the author giving a ‘nod-nod wink-wink’ to the other members of their group, while the reader is left on the outside, asking what just happened.

‘Lucien’s Menagerie’ by David M. Fitzpatrick, is a refreshing change to the fairly monotonic, rambling style of most of the other stories. A woman has the chance to reclaim her childhood home on her husband's death. He left only one stipulation: she has to stay in the house for one night, with this hunting trophies. Dark and horrific, it keeps a slow, building tension, with a clear plot. While it is cerebral, it isn’t self-indulgent. The simplest of the stories and not the most original, it also left the most lasting impact.

Reggie Oliver’s ‘You Have Nothing to Fear’ is a tale of artistic license and endeavor gone wrong... and revenged. Old schoolmates follow interwoven paths defined by their arts and the women who fascinate them. Clear and strongly-written, this is a good story, although without any clear speculative elements.

‘A Matter of Degree’, by Mike Chinn, is a good example of what I did not care for in this collection. Passively voiced, several pages of musing, and a conclusion that falls just a bit flat—no pun intended, given the ending—the story of a man vaguely feeling his way towards immortality just falls short of memorable.

I had the opportunity to talk about this collection with someone familiar with previous works. The tenth book in the collection, and the first one to have the author's names attached, this is a closing to a series. Based on descriptions of earlier books, I think Null Immortalis would have greater impact if one were familiar with earlier collections. Given the limited print runs on each of the books, it is unlikely that one would be able to collect all ten without some serious searching. However, it may be worth the try. More information can be found at the Weirdmonger site.

Overall, this collection blends slipstream, weird, literary, horror and surreal influences. It isn’t to my taste, although I usually like introspective pieces, but the majority of the writing is solid. I think it would benefit from a second reading, perhaps a slower pace to ingest each story and consider it at greater length.

Buy this book from Weirdmonger Press

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