(This review by Gabino Iglesias.)
“We dreamed, of vast empty spaces, of giant clouds of gas that engulfed the stars, of blackness where there was nothing but endless dark, endless quiet. And while our slumbering god dreamed, we danced for him, there in the twilight, danced to the rhythm.”
Elegant, at times lyrical, and wonderfully Lovecraftian: such is William Meikle’s prose. Dark Melodies, the author’s most recent release, is a fantastic collection of eight short stories firmly rooted in the Lovecraftian tradition that showcase Meikle’s talent and take the reader on a chaotic trip to some very sinister places. The stories also happen to have music as a cohesive element that brings them all together and gives the compilation an underlying theme reminiscent of The Music of Erich Zann.
Dark Melodies kicks off with The Tenants of Ladywell Manor, a story about things that come from deep, murky water. Creepy and full of action, this story is also about finding love and possesses something not always expected from horror fiction: a happy ending.
The Persistence of Memory keeps things going with a very entertaining ghost story in which piano music serves as the bridge between our world and whatever awaits beyond the grave.
The third tale, The Chamber of Tiamat, is a standout. Fiona and Jake are studying the sunken ruins of Pavlopetri when Jake finds a mysterious tablet that seems to predate the site. The discovery might lead to something bigger in their careers, so Jake goes back down and investigates further. What they find is a temple of Tiamat. After going into a chamber, Jake loses consciousness, but somehow manages to get a black, egg-shaped stone back to the surface. Unluckily for the couple, what they get their hands on is protected by the aqrabuamelu, the scorpion men. This narrative is packed with tension and it’s anthropological slant makes it as entertaining as any adventure movie out there.
I won’t bother you with a synopsis of every tale in the book, but I will mention two more that standout and help push Dark Melodies into must-read territory for fans of Lovecraftian fiction or just great writing in general.
The first is The Unfinished Basement. It begins with a man who buys and sells houses finding a small pool of stagnant water in the basement of a recently purchased home. The residence also comes with a piano, and there is a dangerous connection between it and what inhabits the dark water in the basement. The crescendo in this story is memorable and it has one of the most haunting finales of the collection.
The last tale, aptly titled Rhythm and Booze, is an superb narrative about a haunting rhythm that brings forth a slithering underground creature that devours humans. Meikle’s prose is painted with a touch of noir and the booze-soaked narrator takes the reader into the gloomiest depths of an underworld chockfull of whiskey, gangsters, money, and jazz.
Although music is omnipresent in the compilation, there is no repetition and each tale has its own distinct voice and cadence. William Meikle is an entertaining writer with a knack for Lovecraftian fiction and Dark Melodies is a testament to that. If you like literature about slumbering gods and the things that inhabit the spaces that open up beyond what we consider real, I strongly suggest you add this tome to your collection.
(This review by Gabino Iglesias.)