Thursday, August 6, 2009

Necroscope: Harry and the Pirates (Tor Books), by Brian Lumley

For Harry Keogh fans, the wait for more of the original Necroscope's adventures ends with “Necroscope: Harry and the Pirates”. Featuring three never-before-published-in-the-U.S. Harry Keogh tales, it's a worthy addition to Lumley's sprawling bibliography. All the key elements are there: Lumley's trademark, storyteller's voice, his wit and the original Necroscope himself, Harry Keogh. Though the title story “Harry and the Pirates” isn't quite as engaging as the “For the Dead Travel Slowly”, and “Old Man with a Blade” is little more than a footnote, this is still an excellent buy for Keogh fans everywhere.

In “For the Dead Travel Slowly”, Harry has returned to his childhood hometown in the County of Durham to visit his childhood pal, James Collins. The Necroscope is tired and defeated after spending fruitless years searching for his lost wife Brenda and his son, whom Brenda disappeared with soon after Harry's strange skills came to light. Harry is very rarely alone, however – though the company he keeps isn't always desired, for Harry possess the dubious ability to speak with what he calls the “Silent Majority” - the dead, lying in their corpses, waiting to move on.

Though he's come to James' house looking for rest, work always lingers for the Necroscope.

He senses something lurking in the woods nearby, a massive collection of the dead, crying out for release. How is it related with the constable he discovers lurking on the woods' outskirts one day...and the lonely, bedraggled man Harry stops the constable from beating?

Something ancient and hungry creeps through the woods. Not only does it feed on human flesh, but it also harvests their souls and holds them captive. Harry must work quickly to unravel it's mystery, because soon will be time for the centuries-old abomination to spawn, creating more of its terrible kind.

“Harry and the Pirates” is an amusing enough tale, though not as engrossing as “For the Dead”. In it, a disillusioned Harry – weary of searching for his lost wife and son – encounters a pirate's soul while hanging around the shipyards of Hartlepool. The tale the pirate has to tell – of grief and suffering, of betrayal and riches – is engrossing, to say the least, but like so many of the dead Harry has encountered over the years, this particular soul is hiding something. It's not what it seems; in may never have been human, to begin with.

The final piece of this collection is short, but hints that Harry's work is far from done. In “Old Man with a Blade”, Death himself encounters Harry, and muses on the Necroscope's fate, which is not to fall at his hands...or in this world, even. A bit of a teaser concerning the Necroscope's ultimate future, perhaps promising more adventures to come.

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