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Return from the Dead: A Collection of Mummy Stories (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – September 5, 2004
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[CONTENTS] The book contains only five stories and one of them is an excerpt of a long, three-volume novel. Here is what you find in this book:
1. "The Jewel of the Seven Stars" by Bram Stoker (both endings included)
2. "The Mummy" by Jane Webb (actually, an 18-page excerpt of Jane C. Webb Loudon's "The Mummy!: Or a Tale of the Twenty-Second Century" published in 1827)
3. "Some Words with a Mummy" by Edgar Allan Poe
4. "The Ring of Thoth" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
5. "Lot 248" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Perhaps this Wordsworth mummy "anthology" should be re-titled "The Jewel of the Seven Stars and Other Mummy Tales" because Bram Stoker's novel takes up about three quarters of the entire volume. Jane's Webb's tale, unique as it is (set in the year 2126), is less than 20 pages and I think some of you have already read the other three tales. Frankly, I don't see a point in compiling a collection in this way.
To be fair, the collected works themselves are all great. "The Jewel of the Seven Stars" is an eerie tale about an archaeologist, his lovely daughter and a mummy brought from Egypt. The book was written by Bram Stoker (best known as creator of Dracula) and originally published in 1903.
The excerpt of Jane Webb's "The Mummy" here includes a scene in which two heroes arrive at a pyramid in Egypt (riding a modernized "balloon") and they conduct one experiment inside it. Some part may remind you of the "Indiana Jones" films.
"Some Words with a Mummy" is not a horror story. The conversation with the mummy is a satire which is still interesting to read. Doyle's "The Ring of Thoth" follows a story of a researcher who, being trapped in the Egyptian room in the Louvre at midnight, witnesses something unusual there. In "Lot 248" an Oxford student suspects that another student living in the same building is actually engaged in a sinister plot against others.
The book "Return from the Dead" has a 6-page introduction by David Stuart Davies, which is readable, but too short, I am afraid. The collection is not a bad choice if you haven't read the Stoker's story, but remember the book does NOT have any notes.
Bram Stoker's "Jewel of the Seven Stars" is the longest and best-known of the stories here, a full novel in its own right. Once one gets used to the rather formal, wordy Edwardian style Stoker has adopted (Dracula reads rather better than this) it is a well-paced tale of mystery and creeping horror; this edition thoughtfully includes the alternative 1912 ending, though modern sensibilities will no doubt prefer the original which is remarkably stark and uncompromising for the period.
The oldest story in the collection, Jane Webb's "The Mummy", is little more than a curio, an excerpt from a much longer work - intriguing, but rather slight.
Edgar Allan Poe`s "Some Words With a Mummy" is a comedic satire, while the two Conan Doyle stories that end the collection, "The Ring of Toth" and "Lot 249" are very good, easily equal in quality to the Stoker novel.
A worthwhile purchase, good value considering the Stoker novel will cost you as much as a single volume and the additional tales are certainly worth having.
The first story, Bram Stoker's Jewel of the Seven Stars is really somewhere between a long novella and a short novel (this first story really is the bulk of the book). If I had to rate it, I'd put it somewhere around 3 stars. The beginning starts out much like a sherlock holmes story, but then morphs (somewhat inexplicably, the inspector just drops out) into more of a classic supernatural mummy story. In it, the ancient mummy (a female figure, somewhat reminiscent of Henry Rider Haggard's "She") has a link with the daughter of an older man who has "recovered" many Egyptian relics and brought them to his home (including this particular mummy and her funerary trappings). The story is told from the point of view of a young man who is in love with the main female character as the group endeavours to understand this mummy and her resurrection needs. Overall, its a good story, but there are a few things that don't make sense in it, and a few things that were built up but then fall flat. This edition is great in that it provides both the original ending to the story and the revised ending that it was later published with. I'm glad they did because the revised, and radically different, ending is much better.
Second story, The Mummy by Jane Webb, two stars, maybe. The most interesting part of it is that it has a slight palaeo-future feel, but there's not enough detail to confirm that. Basically, two guys fly to Egypt in a balloon contraption, enter into the great pyramid and resurrect Cheops with what is essentially a car battery. Given that it was written in 1827, that's kind of impressive, but as plot for a short story, it lacks. In fact, upon re-reading the intro to this collection, this story wasn't designed as a short, but is actually an excerpt from a much larger work, which probably has the depth and sense of completeness that this version lacks.
The third short story is Some Words With A Mummy by Edgar Allan Poe. I was expecting to read a classic, bone chilling horror story typical of EAP's work. I was surprised instead to find a humorous, witty satire about how unimpressive 19th century culture really is. Not what I expected, but wonderful nonetheless. 4.5 stars. (Oh, and the characters here also resurrect a mummy with basically a car battery, apparently it was something of a literary trend.)
The fourth and fifth stories, Ring of Thoth and Lot 249, are both by Arthur Conan Doyle, and are fantastic, fully 5 star stories. The Ring of Thoth is basically the plot of the 1932 film The Mummy with Boris Karloff. It was a bit odd reading a story which is not surprising because you've seen it before, but the only reason you've seen it before is because it was so great someone wanted to make a move about it.
Lot 249 was my favourite of the collection. The setting is a fictionalized Oxford college, where an academic realizes that the scholar who lives in the rooms below him, who is an "Orientalist" to use the old term, is up to some nefarious deeds that need to be stopped. I'm partial to stories set in Oxford (and this one really encapsulated the full flavor of the town), but I also think one of the things I like the best about Mummy stories is how they often involve bookish academics discovering their inner badass-ness.