After taking a brief respite--in the hardboiled yet outre crime thriller "Seven Footprints to Satan"--from the tales of adventurous fantasy at which he so excelled, Abraham Merritt returned in fine form with "Dwellers in the Mirage" (1932). In this terrific novel, Merritt revisits many of the themes and uses many of the ingredients that made his first novel, "The Moon Pool," such an impressive success. Like that early work, "Dwellers" features a lost civilization (of the type grandfathered by the great H. Rider Haggard), battling priestesses, civil wars, and otherdimensional creatures (in the earlier book, a light creature; in "Dwellers," an octopuslike nasty named Khalk'ru that dissolves whatever life-form it touches). In this marvelous fantasy, we meet Leif Langdon, who is hiking through the foothills of the Endicott Mountains in northern Alaska with his Native American buddy. Years before, Leif had witnessed an arcane religious ritual in Mongolia, and been told by the Uighur tribesmen there that he was a descendant of Dwayanu, an ancient Mongolian king. Leif and his buddy discover a hidden valley covered by a freak Alaskan mirage, and meet the golden-skinned pygmy peoples and the Mongolian descendants that reside therein. Before long, in an instance of extreme atavism, Dwayanu takes over Leif's mind and personality, and aids him in his upcoming trials. Leif must eventually encounter a civil war between the valley's inhabitants; the storming of the fugitive city of Sirk; the charms of a witch woman with the most appropriate name of Lur; giant leeches; AND the aforementioned Khalk'ru. The book is just brimming with marvelous imagination and endless wonder, and the reader will never guess what outrageous incidents will pop up next.Read more ›
Why this has not been made into a movie is utterly beyond me.Abraham Merrit is far older than any of the authors whose books have had the full front cover art that you see on some of these editions. On my book cover there is a full and detailed image of Kal Krúh, the terrible creature in the story.As I'm in the process of translating this into an audio drama, I shoudl say some things. Merrit comes from a far earlier age, closer to HG Wells, for instance, than Asimov, and this is rather apparent in the voice of the dialogue. It comes a litle too fast in the book to begin with, though there is a way of making the material slightly re-ordered in time to fit modern tastes. Far, far better is his descriptive imagery, and here Merrit easily equals any of the contemporary fantasy authors. Given that he could probably not afford the long drawn out creative proces per book as such, he could no doubt have drawn even larger illustrations of his post 1st world war world of unexplored paradises and mysteries. We probably have enough, though. In this book, Leif, a young adventurer with an Indian companion, goes north after a family dispute to hunt for a while. Finds some strange geography and a confrontation with a single bizarre incident from his own past, something he only dreams about. Read on if you can get the book. Contact me if you can't. I'll be announcing the release of the audio drama in a year or two,
Simply put, this book is what other writer strive to achieve. It has a little of everything: Fantasy, Adventure, Exploration, Mythology, Romance, and Scientific Theory of the day. Fascinating exploration of what is really in the unused 90% of the mind.
Very much in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard, Merritt was one of the early avatars of swords & sorcery fantasy novels. He emerged from the pulp magazines of the 50s to write novels which went on to influence a generation after him.
_Dwellers in the Mirage_ I found to be a very nice combination of all the things that make early fantasy readable. By turns sly and frightening and full of the high-hat adventure that characterizes speculative fiction of this period.
Leif Langdon feels as though he never really belonged in the modern world and this feeling is confirmed when he disappears into a separate society hidden by a natural phenomenon. He feels strangely at home with this lost society and discovers the role that he was meant to play in life.
Trainspotters may be interested in noting that Merritt went on sometime after this book to co-author a story with Lovecraft. After reading about the Khalk'ru I am certainly curious who was influencing whom.