Sunday, July 03, 2016

11. The Garden of Evil (aka The Lair of the White Worm) by Bram Stoker

Picked up a paperback copy of this from the local thrift store and jumped right in.  I was quite psyched at first, as it had the classic Edwardian language and setup of the young scion coming back from Australia to meet his great-uncle.  Of course, the young man is of outstanding character and mettle and gets along famously with his elderly uncle, who is delighted to have discovered an heir of such quality.  Things get even richer, when we learn the history of the area where the uncle's estate is, one that exemplifies the ancient struggle between the evil of Roman heathenry and the good of Anglo-Saxon godliness.  Both forces are still very active in this valley, especially evil. 

So a great setup and there are some rich characters introduced early on that have a lot of promise, the super sinister Lord Caswall whose family is far too Roman in their genealogy and Lady Arabella, who wears a tight white frock to emphasize her impressively slim figure.  They are both up to shenanigans it is clear from the start. Unfortunately, the story does not live up to the promise of its beginnings.  The pacing is really inconsistent, with big events happening in a sentence while multiple chapters are spent on the nephew and Lord Nathaniel (his ally in fighting the supernatural) theorizing in the most inane way.  The plot also just seems to have some major holes where things don't make sense and major events have no impact on any of the characters.  It feels badly written.  I understand it was Stoker's last book and was published posthumously, but it's a real mess.  And I am pretty sure I am reading the unabridged version (there was a popular abridged version that had 28 instead of 40 chapters).

Despite the rough structure, there is a ton of pretty good supernatural action in this book.  The protagonists race the great worm in land and sea.  Mongooses are ripped in half.  And there is a full-on psionic battle that presages Scanners by over 60 years.  It's chock full of fun stuff, too bad that so much of it is quite bad.  A brief internet search showed me that it has landed on many worst of lists and I think that may have been fair.

1 comment:

Will Errickson said...

I think I agree with your assessment, but I couldn't finish the book! Alas. I do like the vintage Gothic cover art though.