Monday, July 9, 2012

The Tunnelers, a review

Today I have on the slate Geoff Gander's "The Tunnelers," a Lovecraftian novella that delves into territory below the shale of Canada. While I found a few problems with the novella itself, it was entertaining and definitely worth the read. I believe this is Geoff's first novella-length outing, and for the very beginning of an author's career it does not dissapoint.

The Tunnelers opens with the a twinge of horror, a technique present in most Lovecraft stories; the narrator, looking back on the story itself, foreshadows the terrifying and mind-blasting events that are yet to come. Regret for prying too deep, and warnings to others that will follow. This has become a tried-and-true method of identifying works as Lovecraftian in nature.

The actual content of the story turns out to be the collected notes of a psychiatrist in a mental health facility in Ottawa. This is an interesting change of perspective for a tale of Lovecraftian horror; we are presented not with the point of view of a raving lunatic (as Lovecraft himself is so often eager to give us) but rather of the man attempting to heal him. It turns the traditional structure of a Lovecraftian narrative on its head.

I had some problems with the "notes" structure of the story, but they were fairly minor. My issue was that it seemed impossible to tell when any given group of notes had been written; were they immediately after a session with the madman? Where they days after? In some cases the notes seem to have been compiled en mass at the end of the entire story, as though Dr. Armstrong was being interviewed about a succession of days. I would almost rather have been shackled with him as the story progressed, not having any intimations of the future and not knowing at all that there were dark events to come. How could he have known on July 15th that the patients ramblings would "turn out to be right" so many days later?

That having been said, I find the Lovecraftian element of the tale itself interesting, though it was telegraphed very early in the story. The second section reveals the chilling antagonists and not much more is done to keep their identity in doubt throughout. While this detracts somewhat from the "mystery" aspect of most Lovecraft stories, it does allow the reader to see the ultimate conclusion of the Tunnelers coming and feel helpless to avoid it.

All in all, I found the Tunnelers to be a fairly good, but not perfect, story of unpleasant knowledge beyond the sphere of men.

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