Friday, May 27, 2011

Other Kingdoms / by Richard Matheson

Alexander White goes by the pen name of Arthur Black. It's a publicity exercise of course--audiences of the type of dark horror fiction he writes would want an "A. Black" book, not an "A. White" novel. In his relatively successful career as a writer, all of his books have been fiction. But at 82, he now recalls a story that, though it is indeed stranger and more mystifying than all of his novels, is true--word for word. Born in Brooklyn in the year 1900, Alexander White was 18 when he finally broke free of his oppressive shackles at a home domineered by his autocratic father and joined the American Army in the trenches of World War I. There he met a soldier, a dying Englishman named Harold Lightfoot whose last words to Alexander were "keep away from the 'middle'".

Disturbed by his friend's mysterious epitaph and even more so when he discovers a sizeable golden nugget in his pack, Alexander sets off for Harold's home of Gadford to look for answers. He doesn't have to look far to find way more than he could have ever bargained for. When his search leads him to a small cottage where a woman named Magda lives, it is only the beginning as his life becomes ever more entwined with the life of a woman, a witch, and her dealings with the very peculiar yet very real "wee folk" of the forest. Matheson, known for his stellar horror novels like I Am Legend, Hell House and Stir of Echoes, merges into the world of fantasy in this sharply written tale of a man caught up in a world he could never have imagined. Much like more contemporary historical fantasy, near-history rather than ancient, Other Kingdoms weaves together a snapshot of twentieth century life, the ravages of the modern world with the ages old realm of myth and mysticism. Even readers only slightly familiar with fantasy will have no trouble grasping the plight and evolution of Alexander White, who recreates a time and a place certainly stranger and unfamiliar to our own, but which somehow seems very near and very recognizable all the same. (SF MATHESON)

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