Review by Dave Brzeski. I want to add that I first read this book almost 30 years ago, and it has stuck with me all this time. It’s a very good — but mostly forgotten — book with Lovecraftian themes.
Thanks for the review, Dave!
ALSO: I have just learned that Displaced Person was published in the USA under the title Misplaced Persons. If you can’t find a copy through the links below, or it’s too expensive, try this link: Misplaced Persons. For now at least, that link leads to cheaper copies of this novel. — MD
DISPLACED PERSON, by Lee Harding, 1979
I knew of Australian author Lee Harding, but I can’t say for sure that I’ve ever read any of his work before. I picked this one up on the recommendation of Mike Davis, who felt it had something of a Lovecraftian feel about it.
Graeme Drury is a 17 year old youth, who gradually finds he is being ignored, simply not noticed by those around him. His situation worsens as the world around him gradually loses colour and definition. Finally he finds himself in a grey limbo where he can no longer even make physical contact with people, or objects.
Yes, it is Lovecraftian in a sort of Philip K. Dickian manner. Actually, it reminded me more of the work of Richard Matheson. I saw parallels with ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man’ in the struggles of the protagonist to survive in an increasingly alien environment. Not forgetting ‘I, Vampire’, another classic Matheson novel, dealing with a man alone in an hostile world and the horror of finding a companion, only to lose him again as the story progresses.
Graeme Drury is an amazingly intelligent and analytical young man, who finds himself examining the place of himself and, indeed the role of the entire human race in the vast unknowable universe. Are they no more than lab rats in some cosmic experiment? Why and how has he come to be where he is, and what is the mysterious intangible creeping darkness which he gradually becomes aware of? What happened to his found and lost again companions? Will he see them again, when the darkness inevitably takes him?
It’s a short book, a novella really at just 138 pages, but it’s as long as it needs to be. I consider it a good thing that it was published before the word processor heralded the reign of the over-padded, two-inch thick, doorstop novels we commonly see today.
If you’re the sort of Lovecraftian who insists on ancient tentacled gods, weird cults and forbidden tomes, then this may not be for you. If, however, your idea of Lovecraftian is along the lines of man being an insignificant speck in a cosmos ruled by unimaginable forces, totally indifferent to our petty concerns, then this certainly does fit the bill.
I also think it would make for a pretty good two, or three part TV miniseries if handled correctly.
Well I read the book and I was not favorably impressed. It does not wear its age lightly. While the concept of vanishing in plain sight was pretty good the execution left me flat. I found the prose labored, and the characters and dialogue less than compelling; mostly I was slightly bored. I was also put off by the ending which seemed a bit of a cop out. Chacun a son gout. I would also be hard pressed to say its very Lovecraftian but that’s another matter.