Thursday, 2 November 2017

'Who Is That On the Other Side of You?'


The third story in the Impostor Syndrome anthology is an ambitious tale by Timothy J. Jarvis. The title is taken from The Waste Land, which is apt given that the setting is (mostly) Antarctica. This is the white continent of Captain Scott and his great rival Amundsen. Scott and other members of his expedition feature in the narrative, albeit peripherally. 

The focus is on two unlikely anti-heroes who arrive in the Antarctic at the same time in pursuit of a portal into the hollow earth. The two men are uncannily similar despite being unrelated - doubles who seem like identical twins. Their adventures are strange, violent, at times disturbing. The world the author creates is that of the Gilded Age, the US after the Civil War when robber barons prevailed. The author throws in magic (with even a passing reference to Aleister Crowley), to create a rich stew of decadence and vaulting ambition.

The main problem with the story is that the quest at its heart either leads into the hollow earth, or it doesn't - both are bound to be anticlimactic to some degree. Sure enough, I felt that this one did not so much end as peter out, leaving lurid splashes of colour against a bleak, white background. An interesting failure by an ambitious writer, but a failure nonetheless.

This running review will continue in a day or two. Stay tuned, and so forth.

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