Friday, May 23, 2014

Reviewish: Deepest, Darkest Eden

Deepest, Darkest Eden - ed. Cody Goodfellow, Miskatonic River Press

I've been sitting on writing this review for a while, because what I've been trying to mentally do is form my thoughts into a quippy blurb that would really sell this collection to people who were looking to the reviews to help them decide. I finally realized though, that while I could probably do so, it is a disservice to the authors in the text and to readers for me to try to spin my opinion. (Reviews are opinions, no matter how well-backed.) It is far better that I just lay out my experience & thoughts plainly.

In short, this is a pretty tasty collection of stories that execute the art of pastiche perfectly. (I'm a fan of pastiche for several reasons; chief among them is that a pastiche is what brought me to a love of Arthur Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes.) 

Full Cover art for Deepest, Darkest Eden
Revolving around, inspired by, progeny from frothy, dark, eldritch literary spawn of Clark Ashton Smith, these stories put out. Which is to say, they deliver exactly what's promised. Overall, each story (and poem - there are a couple) nails the atmospheric feeling of an ol' CAS tale. Details are heavy & rich and doom lingers. This is a great anthology if you're looking for something with that CAS flair. Or, if you've never experienced it. Be prepared, though - these stories (and their origin) come in a very particular flavor.

While I enjoyed the whole collection overall, there are a few worth note - both good and bad. I'll start with my primary candidates of best/worst:

"Daughter of The Elk Goddess" - Probably my favorite. In a way, the story was fairly predictable (after a while of reading, most stories are, aren't they?) - but the execution was so lovely that I couldn't help but love it. I enjoyed reading it the most, no doubt. Though I knew where things were going, I still reacted as though I hadn't. That's a mark of a good story teller; it took me to a destination, but the journey was the more worthy part.

"In Old Commoriom" - I enjoyed this story for the most part, but there were aspects of it that took away from the overall narrative. In places it seemed to drone, and then the ending tries for something clever and it really broke the build-up for me. In a couple places, the carefully wrought language seemed to slip into more contemporary parlance and that was a bit jarring. Not a bad story by any means, but one that had some "fridge moments" that didn't wait for me to put the story down to interrupt my enjoyment and make me ask "Wait, what?" Your mileage may vary.

That said, even if I considered "In Old Commoriom" one of the weakest stories in the book - it's STILL a 3 star story by itself (1=skip it, 3=decent enough to read, and pretty interesting - not enough to bring down my estimation of the text by any means.

Honorable Mentions: "The Lost Archetype" and "The Door from Earth" and "Zolamin and the Mad God" (which I forgot to mention in my Amazon review). These three were great reads. "The Lost Archetype" was peculiarly fulfilling; the ending was suitable and there was a good bit of tension in the telling, but overall it was just /fun/. "The Door from Earth" tickled all of the places in me that require a particular sort of ending. I admit to giggling a little - though the story isn't "funny". Finally, "Zolamin and the Mad God" was another that just... satisfied. I can't put my finger on it, and maybe that's why it slipped my mind when I put up my Amazon review... but it was definitely satisfying. All three were solidly crafted and gave the sense of a completed tale. I imagine each of them could easily also be expanded into larger works - but there's no feel of a need for that.

Ultimately, I wouldn't feel the need to offer any caveats if I were to suggest this collection to a reader looking for something with that Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, or H. P. Lovecraft sort of feel. Similarly, if you've ever enjoyed anything in the sword & sorcery realm, I think there's plenty tot tickle your fancy in this collection. It was an enjoyable and engrossing read. 
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