Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: In the Valley of the Kings by Terrence Holt

A collection of confusing, wondrous and breathtaking stories.

Drawing from Greek mythology, Egyptian archaeology, science fiction and apocalyptic flights of fancy, Terrence Holt stories delve into the hearts and minds of what it means to be human. Among the eight stories, Holt weaves the threads of loss and fear and takes them from dusty and arid Egypt to the rings of Saturn. No matter where the stories lead, one thing is evident: humanity is a constant.

A viral plague born from a word begins the collected tales and shows the inadequacy and mystery of newspapers and the words that bring people to the brink of destruction and set them free.

Charybdis subjects an outbound spaceship crew to the dangers and uncertainties of space culminating in three men dealing with impending doom in three very different ways. In what could have been a maudlin tale, Holt makes each man’s choice not only logical, but also right.

I expected In the Valley of the Kings to be a straightforward archaeological mystery and was rewarded with obsession, immortality, and the price of intelligence. The story is infused with a subtle horror that thrills as it chills the blood.
There is nothing more unexpected than science fiction elevated to a search for the soul and the meaning of what it is to be human. Aurora and Eurydike are sublime in their exploration of death and resurrection. The writing transcends genre labeling with poetic precision and a sense of the macabre that is as fascinating as it is mesmerizing.

Of all the stories, my favorite was Apocalypse. Although the reason for the End isn’t clearly stated, the sense of impending doom and the indomitable capacity for hope had me riveted. The beginning of the story is slow and almost desultory, building to a climax that has nothing to do with catastrophe. Holt’s storytelling skills are magical, sounding a deep resonant chord that left me with tears and smiles.

The stories are complex and masterful, making use of repetitive phrases and swirling flights of lyrical prose that borders on poetry, windows into the psyche that exhibit the basics of storytelling—to fascinate and enlighten.

No comments: