Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Elysia review


    Brian Lumley's Titus Crow series is one of the first novels I started reviewing here on the United Federation of Charles and with Elysia I finished up the Seventies fantasy/horror/sci-fi series. It was a genre-busting work for its time and managed to take the works of H.P. Lovecraft and put an entirely unique spin on them. That spin isn't something for all Lovecraft fans as Lumley eschewed cosmic horror for tales of daring Pulp heroes finding ways of defeating the Great Old Ones in increasingly outlandish ways.

    Elysia wraps up the series which began with The Burrowers Beneath (reviewed here) then continued in The Transition of Titus Crow (reviewed here), The Clock of Dreams (reviewed here), Spawn of the Winds (reviewed here), and In the Moons of Borea (reviewed here). Elysia definitively wraps the series up in the only way it possibly could with the awakening of the Great Old Ones and the attempt by our heroes to find some way to put them back down before they destroy both Earth as well as the titular home of the Elder Gods.

    The premise is, as stated, the Great Old Ones finally rising from their aeons-long slumber. The stars are right and all of the cosmos is feeling something evil in the wind. Though the Elder Gods defeated them a billion years ago, they have forgotten the secrets for doing so and are helpless with their current rising. Titus Crow is then given the impossible choice to mislead his friend Henri in hopes of using him as bait to lead the monstrous Cthulhu Cycle into a trap.

    Henri de Marginy, unaware of this possible betrayal, has returned to Borea in hopes of finding another clue to finding Elysia. Given directions via a psychic message from Crow, he starts on an epic journey across time and space to find the wizard who knows the way to the sacred world. Accompanying Henri on this trip is his new lover Moreen who is perhaps the one person able to pierce the deep malaise which has overcome the Searcher thanks to his longing for the Elder Gods' mythic homeworld.

    Elysia ends the series with a bang rather than a whimper, having a catastrophic ending which nicely brings to close Lumley's saga of science-heroes and occultists versus godlike aliens. Unfortunately, the book is not without flaws as an entire section of it is taken up by recounting a story from his Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stand-ins versus the actual heroes. Still, we have a story which consists of visiting a sentient gas cloud, skimming a black hole, visiting a gigantic robot in the Dreamlands, dueling with a wanton airship pirate queen, and finally visiting an ancient Pre-Hyborian Age realm of wizard kings.

    Lumley has an imagination he allows to run wild and it works well here with this being, along with Spawn of the Winds and The Burrowers Beneath, one of my three favorite Titus Crow stories. Lovecraft aficionados aren't going to find some last minute, "The Great Old Ones show up and kill everyone" but they're allowed more dignity here than they had in some of the volumes. Whole worlds are destroyed when the wrath of Cthulhu is unleashed and the final confrontation with him is epic in a Jack Kirby-meets-Doctor Who sort of way.

    I'm particularly fond of the wizard Exior who shows up only in the last third of the book but who steals the show from the beginning of his appearance to the end. After the somewhat goody-goody Pulp heroes of the previous books, it's interesting to have someone who amounts to a Conan villain allied to our heroes. Exior is an evil wizard who doesn't believe in science but sorcery and stands opposed to all of our heroes values (having made many deals with the Great Old Ones in the past that he only regrets because they got the better of him). Exior, though, is friendly and aligned to our heroes' goals so they more or less let him join in what is probably the best trick of a Lumley villain yet.

    The book's ending actually moved me just a wee bit and gives the right sense of sacrifice as well as power for the defeat of the Great Old Ones. While Lovecraft purists will rail at the fact the Great Old Ones can be defeated at all, it isn't the case of Hawkgirl smacking Cthulhu around with her mace either. I felt this was a satisfactory wrap-up to all of the series mysteries and left me feeling like I'd spent my time well traveling with such an eccentric cast of oddballs.

9/10

Also in the Titus Crow series and reviewed by the United Federation of Charles:

The Burrowers Beneath 
The Transition of Titus Crow 
The Clock of Dreams
In the Moons of Borea 
Spawn of the Winds

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