Sunday, November 18, 2012
The story begins with a very tense scene where a man escapes from a mental institution. Cave, a master of mood, makes the man's fear almost a tangible thing, slowly building up the psychological tension by describing the man's mental state and layering on the atmosphere. By the time the guy gets free, you almost feel like you were incarcerated with him. And that's just the first few pages.
Cave continues the build-up. The reader learns that the hero and his girlfriend were both put into mental institutions because of the wild story that they told about being tortured and imprisoned by some horrible non-human creatures at an isolated country inn, and that the hero is going back to that inn. By the time he gets there, after first tricking the men who had him committed into visiting the place themselves, you know that bad bad things are going to happen. And they do. Cave is one of those writers who make you think "Oh jeez, he's not going to do what I think he's going to do", and then he does it. Where other writers might shy away, Cave plunges in. Karl Edward Wagner once pointed out that any of the writers who thought that the extremes of the splatterpunk horror story were something new, obviously hadn't read Hugh B. Cave. This is a genuinely disturbing story. There were a couple of times when I could feel my pulse rate pick up as Cave ratcheted up the tension. Gotta love a writer who can do that.
Anyway, I won't give out any more of the plot because the slow build-up is part of the fun. Hugh B. Cave is yet another writer who I discovered because of Wagner. Fittingly enough I read it in the Carcosa volume Murgunstrumm and Others.