Monday, January 18, 2010

Blind Panic, (Leisure Fiction), by Graham Masterton

From bestselling veteran Graham Masterton comes an entertaining – if a bit sprawling – apocalyptic tale that once again pits the malevolent, ancient Algonquin medicine man Misquamacus against the hero of Masterton's first novel, (“The Manitou”), the fake psychic, amiable ne'er-do-well Harry Erskine. Though the plot's resolution flirts a bit with dues ex machina, (where an impossible problem is abruptly solved), on the whole “Blind Panic” is obsessively readable and wildly fun, and as usual, Masterton's prose is solid and smooth.

A devastating plague has descended upon the people of the United States: sudden, unexplainable and incurable blindness. The resulting devastation is cataclysmic. Thousands of highway accidents and pileups, dozens of airliners crashing into cities and homes, followed by looting, violence, and fiery destruction. Military bases fall into confusion and disarray, and even the President of the United States falls blind, leaving one of the greatest nations on the planet open to attack from without.

Harry Erskine, fake psychic and good-natured scam artist is pulled into the fray when an old friend, (and would be lover, if life had run differently), Amelia Carlsson calls, desperate because her sister's family has fallen blind, also. Investigating the plague's cause, they discover through bits of testimony that the widespread blindness may have a supernatural cause. A séance summoning an old comrade from the Spirit World confirms their worst fears: Misquamacus, known also as He Who Went and Came Back, has struck against the living once again. He wants vengeance for all Native Americans, and he aims no less than to make modern Americans the next extinct race.

For the most part, Masterton handles multiple third-person narratives and Harry's first person perspective skillfully. Also highly enjoyable are his undeniably Lovecraftian tropes: He Who Went and Came Back, his service to the Great Old Ones, those locked away in time and space, and his medallion depicting the “writhing tentacles of the greatest Old One of them all”. Best of all, the story is very readable and compelling, without any sacrifice to craft or character development, a fun story with substance, also.

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