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.
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