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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

HPL Review: The Music of Erich Zann

Art by David Reuss
"The Music of Erich Zann" was the first story of this collection that I read. It's a tale about a man in a boarding house who befriends a mute viol player that keeps a portal to another dimension at bay with his bizarre, dissonant music. Very Lovecraftian without delving into any Cthulhu mythos specifics. No night-gaunts, shoggoths, Great Old Ones, R'lyeh or Dreamlands; just a first-person account of the narrator's maddening encounter with a gateway to a dimension of complete emptiness which may or may not be attempting to spawn eldritch creatures borne of the horrible, unfathomable chilly depths of space itself.
It's a quick, easy read that can be tackled in one sitting. I quite enjoyed it.

As always, the atmosphere is conveyed with skillful mastery by the author. The description of the Rue d'Auseil paints a vivid picture. For some reason, in my mind the town seems to have been designed by Tim Burton or Dr. Seuss, or perhaps it was some sort of collaboration. I see impossibly angular and vertically superlative buildings teetering, yet inexplicably stable, on their practically 90-degree cobbled slope.

The story sucks you in slowly with a stranger coming to town and getting settled. It gradually builds interest as he inquires about the man playing the strange music. The pace begins to quicken as the characters meet and we realize there is probably more to the music than meets the ear. There is no doubt about where the climax comes, as the frantic music is playing, the wind is blowing, the colors are dancing, the lead character is shouting and fighting against the forces which pull from this world into the next... Whew.

What brought the story to my attention in the first place was the song titled "Erich Zann" from the Mythos album by C.G. Gross. I recommend both this story and that CD, especially for the Lovecraft initiate.


GLOSSARY:

Garret: noun | a top-floor or attic room, especially a small, dismal one  |  ex. We took Grandma's rocking chair and tea set to the garret as she instructed in the letter we received prior to her arrival.

Declivity: noun |  a downward slope  |  ex. Seeing Jones' helpless expression and the declivity of the graph he was about to present, the Board of Directors had a pretty solid notion that he was not delivering pleasant news.

Capricious: noun |  given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior  |  ex. There is very little in nature than can be as unpredictable as the capricious nature of a premenstrual Tasmanian She-Devil.

Crabbed: adj |  contorted and difficult to understand  |  ex. Due to the arthritis and Parkinson's disease, her crabbed sign language was a nightmare to decipher.