Dwellers in the Mirage: A marvelous fantasy

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDwellers in the Mirage by Abraham Merritt fantasy book reviewsDwellers in the Mirage by Abraham Merritt

After taking a brief respite — in the hardboiled yet outre crime thriller Seven Footprints to Satan — from the tales of adventurous fantasy at which he so excelled, Abraham Merritt returned in fine form with Dwellers in the Mirage (1932). In this terrific novel, Merritt revisits many of the themes and uses many of the ingredients that made his first novel, The Moon Pool, such an impressive success. Like that early work, Dwellers features a lost civilization (of the type grandfathered by the great H. Rider Haggard), battling priestesses, civil wars, and otherdimensional creatures (in the earlier book, a light creature; in Dwellers, an octopuslike nasty named Khalk’ru that dissolves whatever life-form it touches).

In this marvelous fantasy, we meet Leif Langdon, who is hiking through the foothills of the Endicott Mountains in northern Alaska with his Native American buddy. Years before, Leif had witnessed an arcane religious ritual in Mongolia, and been told by the Uighur tribesmen there that he was a descendant of Dwayanu, an ancient Mongolian king. Leif and his buddy discover a hidden valley covered by a freak Alaskan mirage, and meet the golden-skinned pygmy peoples and the Mongolian descendants that reside therein. Before long, in an instance of extreme atavism, Dwayanu takes over Leif’s mind and personality, and aids him in his upcoming trials. Leif must eventually encounter a civil war between the valley’s inhabitants; the storming of the fugitive city of Sirk; the charms of a witch woman with the most appropriate name of Lur; giant leeches; AND the aforementioned Khalk’ru.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDwellers in the Mirage is just brimming with marvelous imagination and endless wonder, and the reader will never guess what outrageous incidents will pop up next. Merritt was truly at the top of his form with Dwellers, and threw in great detail to keep the whole conceit afloat. There are amusing side characters, interesting species of flora and fauna, some historical and metaphysical speculations, and bits of unusual anthropology. The tale proceeds with great drive and purpose, and concludes most satisfactorily, indeed.
Dwellers in the Mirage has been included in Cawthorn & Moorcock’s excellent overview volume Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, and I can well understand why. It is a tale that Haggard himself may well have enjoyed, and if you knew me, you’d know that this is high praise, indeed! Seek this book out, by all means; it’s a winner!

Publisher: MERRITT’S MASTERWORK – OVER ONE MILLION COPIES SOLD!Two men in one body! That’s how Lief Langdon had always felt. One part of him was a modern day adventurer, the other was a strange half-memory of another life where he was a High Priest sacrificing living people to Khalk’ru, a demon god from another time and space. Then Langdon stumbled through the mirage into a hidden Arctic valley, where he fell under the spell of Evalie, as beautiful outwardly as she was inwardly, and her friends the Little People, elfin warriors constantly warring with Lur, the Witch-Woman, and her demon riders, who raided the Little People’s land for sacrifices to their dark god, the Kraken. Horrified at the thought of their becoming sacrifices, Langdon took up the Little People’s cause and wooed Evalie. But when he learned the Kraken was also known as Khalk’ru, memories of his past life — as Lur’s lover and High Priest of her sect came rushing back. Soon Langdon was fighting against his other self, a far stronger self that submerges him entirely and eagerly joins Lur, to rain kisses on her lips and weld the bloody knife of sacrifice on his own best friends! An thrilling, uncanny work of magic, myth and mystery that inspired H. P. Lovecraft’s work and has sold over one million copies in hard and soft cover – now an ebook exclusively from Renaissance E Books. Saturday Review of Literature named him, “A genius” whose work displayed “a fertility of imaginative resource…unique, eerie, compelling.”

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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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