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This Ghosting Tide / Simon Clark

Bad Moon Books / September 2009
Reviewed by: T.E. Lyons

Brit Clark has plenty of fans, and their confidence in him is justified here, although perhaps not as intended: Whether this project was a novel-draft that broke apart, or multiple short-story ideas that have been sewn together, the result showcases a veteran’s skill for salvaging modest fragments. This novella gets by on some unusual charms. It is not so much a classic horror story as an adventure that has dollops of shudder-inducing grue and other dark elements. Add some quick cuts, short-timed threats, and other busyness that keep this moving at an unexpected but reader-friendly pace.

At the center of this tale is a ghost-hunting team that has finally tripped onto the exact thing they’ve been looking for, and finds that it contains every one of their greatest fears. The team is a motley sort, cutting across social strata — and even further: The eccentric nobleman who bankrolls the project is bringing along a large monkey as a travelling companion. The employees are all desperate to one degree or another. Our point-of-view character, Kit, is a bankrupted wannabe-filmmaker.  Another of the team is a middle-aged raconteur who sees himself as the perfect know-it-all huckster to placate the naïve and generous benefactor. From what I know about Simon Clark, there is a little bit of self-joshing in how he drew this character.

The plotline moves determinedly from incident to incident. We see the group’s modus operandi as Kit digs up a grave from the Victorian era, prodded by a dubious rationale. The tension of the scene escalates, and then bursts into a gripping and claustrophobic scene during which we see how the group reacts to stress. Their fractiousness has barely receded to the background when they stumble upon a locale that is haunted on a massive scale. An evil countenance seems to have harnessed the blind rage of all that the sea can throw onto anyone who draws near. Our ghost-hunters now have a phenomenon that they can document, therefore justifying all their efforts — but they become fascinated to the point that they lose full understanding of the danger before them.

Clark tries to convey the encounters with spirits as electrical jolts and moments when senses are stolen or distracted, instead of the traditional ghost-story moodiness and deliberate ethereal atmosphere. His choices work well alongside the brevity and constant movement here, leading to some memorably visceral moments. The reader may benefit by considering this novella as a stylistic descendant of John Wyndham’s pull-together-against-the-mounting-evil procedural thrillers like The Day of the Triffids (for which Clark wrote a sequel). But upon closing This Ghosting Tide, it becomes difficult to justify the investment that was made in setting up locales and personae. Even for a lightweight read, the ending was seriously wanting. The characters were no mere stick figures, but they (and the reader) are left off with even less than the shorthand by which they were first presented. 

Purchase This Ghosting Tide by Simon Clark.

Posted on Monday, September 21, 2009 at 11:33PM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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