“I beg your forgiveness for this unexpected change to the evening’s proceedings. but we find ourselves confronted with the urgent need to conduct an impromptu séance for reasons of national security.”
The Feaster From the Stars by Alan K. Baker is a strange blend of multiple genres.
It is a science fiction/ horror/ mythic/ Faerie/ occult/ crime story set in a Victorian era, where new technologies have been borrowed from alien civilisations.
It’s a Victorian England, compatible with Wells’ War of the Worlds, where both Mars and Venus are inhabited, and their citizens have made their mark on earth.
Many Victorian “interests” collide within the book, which seems to be written in, and inspired by, the style of the macabre literature of that time.
I first came across this book via an ad for The Martian Ambassador, another novel by Baker. When I followed that book up with local book sellers, I saw this one also on sale, for around half price.
I ordered both and this one was delivered first. They are parts of a “Blackwood and Harrington” series.
After starting to read this book, I realised it was the more recent of the two, with several semi-spoilers for the other book being revealed throughout this story.
Thomas Blackwood, Special Investigator from Queen Victoria’s Bureau of Clandestine Affairs, is sent to investigate strange events in the London Underground railway, assisted by Lady Sophia Harrington, secretary of the Society for Psychical Research and Detective Gerhard de Chardin from the Metropolitan Templar Police.
Rail workers report an increase in ghostly activity throughout the rail tunnels, and a train driver has an encounter that leaves his mind broken, and he is committed to the Bethlem Hospital. The only clue to what he experienced is his utterance of the word “Carcosa”.
Blackwood recalls this is the name of a mythical place in literature. A place that the investigators discover is actually a planet in a distant star system.
A link between the underground events is made to Carcosa, from which there is an approaching, imminent danger to the earth .
Aided by psychics. mediums and occult scholars, as well as Faery royalty, the investigators have the challenge of saving earth and countless other civilisations from a powerfully destructive entity known as The King in Yellow.
I thought the blending of science fiction and crime investigation, with a dash of ghostliness would make a compelling story. However, while the book was relatively easy to get through, I found too many genres swirled together with almost every kind of supernatural character imaginable (aliens, faeries, ghosts, angels…) made for an overall, disappointing reading experience.
A third story in the series was also published but it seems to be very hard to obtain. It must be out of print. Second hand copies are available however they aren’t cheap, but after reading this one, I wouldn’t be interested in it anyway.
This book and the one before it (The Martian Ambassador – which is still on order) will be more than enough for me.