I continue my running review of Written in Darkness by Mark Samuels with a story that harks back to my teenage years. I should hasted to add that this tale of a corporate software expert who finds himself at a mysterious underground site in the Gobi Desert is more exotic than my schooldays in Sunderland. But in terms of content and approach 'An Hourglass of the Soul' is very like the New Wave science fiction I read as a spotty lad.
The story begins in on thedismal borders of Ligotti territory, with interestingly-named Drax in a state of puzzlement over his role at his new employer, a typically vast and faceless multinational corporation. Things grow even more puzzling when he's told to prepare for a flight to Mongolia at the shortest possible notice. Drax gamely travels thousands of miles by airliner, then by small prop plane, to caverns that house the Library of Gholraqy. This houses 'scrolls of inconceivable antiquity that foretell of the devolution of gods to men'.
One might think ancient wisdom would be of little use to the modern business mentality, and one would be right. The scrolls are ignored, despised relics of merely spiritual value. Instead the caverns are prized for their remoteness, an ideal place to develop a revolutionary new form of data processor. When this mysterious breakthrough is revealed the story ends with a revelation that might have been conceived by Harlan Ellison or Philip K. Dick.
Another bleak tale of an isolated individual put through the wringer of the world machine, then. An overarching theme has not so much emerged by now as jumped out of the page and poked me in the eye. What next, I wonder?