Wednesday, 22 February 2017

'The Speckled God' by Marc Joan



I was sent a novella-length ebook with a request to review it, if I felt so inclined. I have no hesitation in recommending 'The Speckled God', as it's an excellent 'one sitting' read. One reviewer described it thus:
It reads almost like a blend of Rudyard Kipling, H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Aickman with a touch of old-fashioned mystery fiction.
This is fair enough, thought I'm not sure about Aickman. I would suggest Nabokov as an influence on Marc Joan, thanks to the elegant, modernist technique. Kipling is inevitably suggested as this is a supernatural, while the story structure recalls Lovecraft's approach in 'The Call of Cthulhu'.

The story takes place in 1975, but is piece together forty years later by the author from documents and interviews with various people involved. It is, on the face of it, a simple tale. Joki de Souza, an auditor for a tea company based in Bombay, travels to Mancholi in the Tamil region in southern India to visit a remote plantation. Something about the accounts has aroused concern. But what that anomaly might be we never learn (thought there is a hint in a slip of paper).

Joki immediately outrages the locals by running over a snake. It seems that the area is dominated by a serpent cult, and that a five yearly cycle of sacrifices to the goddess Mother Jakkamma. The sacrifices are goats, of course. Or so it is claimed...

The book contains some fine descriptive writing of conditions in India, ranging from the clangour of the Westernised big city to the very different world of jungle and village. There are memorable characters, and a sense that much more remains hidden than has been revealed. All in all, this is subtle weird fiction of the first order.

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