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The 37th Mandala Hardcover – February, 1996

19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Anyone who's ever wished that the charlatans of the New Age movement would get their comeuppance from a real and potent Evil, will enjoy this well-crafted horror novel. From his wicked characterization of a cynical ad-copy writer who turns to writing occult books to make a buck, to his portrayal of the moral uncertainty of the followers who blindly hunger for occult knowledge, to his evocation of scary monsters (described as "astral jellyfish," "ghostly buzzsaws," and "wheels of grainy flame") from the killing fields of Cambodia, Marc Laidlaw knows how to hit the high points. As a monsters vs. humans story, the novel's plot is a bit unsatisfying (dramatic endings are hard to pull off), but as Brian Stableford writes in Necrofile, "the strength of The 37th Mandala ... lies in its painstaking attempt to scrutinize and analyze the psychological malaise which lies at the heart of the so-called New Age."

From Publishers Weekly

Attempts to achieve a genuine sense of awe are rare in contemporary horror. So Laidlaw (The Orchid Eater) is to be complimented for making the effort in his new novel, even though it falls short of its visionary ambitions. The titular mandalas, clearly influenced by Lovecraft, are both extradimensional "organisms" and symbolic "archetypes of decay" that manifest in our world as 37 distinct designs. When New Age hack writer Derek Crowe pilfers the manuscript in which they appear and rewrites it as a book of bromides for the crystal-gazing crowd, he inadvertently creates a cult of believers that attracts the evil entities from across the terrestrial threshold. Crowe's struggle to deal with what he has wrought brings him into contact with a wildly varied cast of characters, including a woman who becomes a physical embodiment of the worst mandala and a Cambodian refugee who seeks to control the mandalas for his own purposes. Describing the unspeakable is a daunting task, but Laidlaw rises to it, creating a manifestation of the unearthly that is both accessible and impenetrably alien. Yet the novel's cosmic scope never quite comes to life, as the sense of menace generated by the mandalas remains embedded in the individual dramas of the novel's characters. The result is a superior tale of human beings in thrall to occult forces, but one whose reach exceeds its grasp.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st edition (February 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031213021X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312130213
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,566,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. Cantrell on March 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I read a few glowing reviews of this (pretty amazing) novel, but could not find it anywhere; it was already out of print. I came across a remaindered copy (sorry) and read it over the next few days. The reviewers were right. The author's voice is right on the money as the cynical narrator takes advantage of the 'new-agers', sarcastically belittling them for their naivete, then learning to his horror that he was only slightly less naive. This is one of the few books I can think of that actually inspires a scary sort of awe in the reader, at least in this one. Scenes in Cambodia, and in the New Age store, and at the club, have stayed with me in the months since I finished the book. I've been trying to track down other books by Mr. Laidlaw, but so far, no luck. Just to give some idea of my taste, other books I've enjoyed to this degree lately are: 'KOKO', 'The Throat', and 'The Hellfire Club', all by Peter Straub, James Ellroy's 'LA Confidential', Bentley Little's 'The Ignored'. None of these are much like 'The 37th Mandala', but all of them are: Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By mellion108 VINE VOICE on April 5, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Laidlaw has created one of the more unique horror novels I have ever read. I must admit that I had some difficulty getting through the first 50 pages or so of this novel, but after that, I simply could not stop reading this story.

Derek Crowe is a hack writer of new age/occult self-help books. His only concern is how to write "the" novel that will make him rich and famous. His disdain for his readers as well as his rather stunted personal life, however, combine to leave him feeling empty. While on the obligatory speaking engagement, Crowe meets the very young Michael and Lenore Renzler. What none of them realizes is that Derek's latest novel is a deceptively benevolent presentation of some serious evil. As it turns out, Derek has knowingly altered these ancient texts of the mandalas, thus allowing a powerful, horrible force into the world. Derek, Michael and Lenore are all drawn into a spiraling life-threatening chase to fight or join the mandalas.

Laidlaw's writing is superb. Even though it took me a few pages to finally get into the story, this is a novel that certainly reached out and clawed its way into my imagination. The subject is rather unique, and this is a breath of fresh air for the horror genre. Laidlaw creates interesting, believable characters, and the mandalas are some of the creepiest things I've read about in a long time! This is definitely a novel well worth your time. It's intelligent, captivating and terrifying--what more do you want in a novel?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Rowan TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 4, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide in Cambodia, a journalist is seeking a manuscript. But this manuscript is more than just a pile of papers, a memoir written by yet another nameless victim of Khmer killing squads, it has a life of its own, and the entities within it want to be known to the world. These entities - thirty-seven mandalas which feed upon human passions - want more scope for their needs. They want more food.
Horror doesn't have to be invented. True horror exists in our world as a recognition of our own darkest depths; how can we help but recoil from tales of torture and murder so egregious that some people persist in believing the events described could not have happened? Mark Laidlaw understands the nature of horror, and he uses this knowledge to root his novel, THE 37TH MANDALA, firmly in those shadowy realms which we do not wish to see, but cannot quite look away from. He opens the book in in a place which stands as a monument to the Cambodians - between one and two million by most estimates, as many as a quarter of the country's inhabitants - who were tortured and murdered by the Khmer Rouge, their own countrymen, between 1975 and 1979, their bodies strewn on what is now known as "The Killing Fields." It's to his credit that he does not attempt to explain away evil by attributing it to the influence of the mandalas (or any external force) because that would ring false. Rather he presents us with a group of living things that feed upon cruelty and evil and perhaps intensify it, but which never create it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Surowiecki on March 10, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I found "The 37th Mandala" to be pleasingly reminiscent of Clive Barker's "The Great & Secret Show". It was a delightfully wicked and creepy read.
The Mandalas are reminiscent of another creation of Mr. Barker's, as well! There's that same feel and setting as with the puzzle box and the Cenobites.
The care with which Marc Laidlaw takes with his characters and their surroundings shows on every page. The depiction of Tuol Sleng was eerily accurate.
I think readers will enjoy getting to know Derek Crowe most of all. A sneak, scoundrel and opportunist who does not understand the series of events he's set into motion.
The supporting cast of characters is intriguing as well as engaging.
Should you get a chance to read this book, I do not think you will be disappointed.
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