Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child LoChi
The Tomb of the Old Ones
(Cosmos Books [a "Cosmos Double"], $14.99, trade paperback, 206 pages;
Although the two short novels presented in this book could not be more
different in terms of style, feel, storyline and outcome,
number of similarities make them comfortable companions here. First,
the premise of each is based on a bold new idea for the creation of
life on Earth; it is true that anything goes in the world of fantastic
literature, but it is not often that a story starts from scratch when
dealing with Earth matters. In addition, both stories thrust seemingly
ordinary humans into metaphysical circumstances. Again not that odd,
but the movement in these stories is smoother than usual. Most importantly
though, the stories are both centred on supernatural communication through
Qinmeartha and the Girl Child LoChi is a mysterious tale from
John Grant's ongoing mythology concerning the god Qinmeartha. Insane
and evil in this story, the powerful Qinmeartha is ridiculed by his
pals -- the other gods -- and turns in anger on his greatest creation,
the mortals. He subjects them to a searing, neverending light from which
only the much-anticipated Girl-Child LoChi can save them.
The story involving the struggle between light and dark is told on
two planes. Joanna Gard dreams of living in a two-dimensional world
where she is sapped of energy by a blinding, burning, never-setting
sun. There is no shade in a two-dimensional world, no pillar or post
to hide behind. Everyone suffers as she does and waits for the Girl-Child
LoChi, who will shield them from the sun. Joanna wakes from the dream
to the town where her aunt lives. The town has been slowly withering
ever since the arrival of a gender-shifting family of four -- the Gilmours.
Her Aunt Jill falls into a listlessness and mental debilitation until
finally succumbing to death. Joanna herself slips into the ennui gripping
the village. At first it seems to be a symptom of grief due to her aunt's
passing, but soon it becomes apparent that it's a supernatural phenomenon
connected with the weird Gilmours, who are creatures of the dark.
Although using classic horror symbols such as werewolves, an unseen
evil power and the possession of a human soul, the story is neither
as frightening nor as shallow as is typical of the genre. There is more
going on here than mere good overcoming evil or vice versa. The god
Qinmeartha created life and he seems to be destroying it unless the
Girl-Child LoChi intercepts. This is like the Jesus story: the All Powerful
creates everything, an uppity servant seeks to undo it all, the son
of God steps in as saviour. But the Qinmeartha story is more concerned
with the balance of nature -- positive forces balancing negative forces,
light balancing dark -- than with abstract non-absolutes like good and
evil battling each other for dominance. Christian mythology, with its
obsession with two types of souls, sanctified and cursed, can have only
one answer for each person on the all-important question: Are you saved?
And once answered, for all eternity nothing changes for that soul. With
Qinmeartha, by contrast, it's hard to say what's good or bad, right
or wrong. He is both creator and destroyer.
The Gilmours cause the town to die, yet they attract the Girl-Child
LoChi. Are these two entities -- Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child LoChi
-- good or evil? Is there a difference? Does it matter? These questions
seem to be irrelevant in this mythology. Balance is more important than
one side overcoming the other.
While matters of the spirit are all-important in the Grant story, the
same cannot be said for The Tomb of the Old Ones, by Colin Wilson.
This is a straightforward science-fiction tale, presented in a Poe-like
or Lovecraft-like style. The main character begins the narration with
a rather detailed and seemingly superfluous account of events leading
up to the present and his own involvement in the current phenomenon
In this story, Matthew Willoughby recounts how his grandfather, Daniel,
inspired by the early conquests of Antarctica, dreamt of a lost civilization
under the ice. While Daniel firmly believed in the existence of said
civilization, he was unable to prove it because the technology he needed
hadn't been invented yet.
Matthew inherits his grandfather's dreams and belief in the existence
of the lost community. He eventually teams with a celebrated inventor,
Trask, and they travel with a group to Antarctica. With newer testing
equipment and powerful lasers not available during Daniel's time, Matthew
and Trask are indeed able to uncover the lost race. Once discovered
and thawed, the strange half-animal, half-plant survivors begin to show
signs of returning to life. Realizing the dangers to the human race
of an unknown and seemingly powerful species, the team returns home,
and in classic fashion agrees never to let anyone know about the discovery.
Both of these short novels are written exceptionally well, keeping
the reader's attention to the end. Both authors masterfully weave the
lives of rather ordinary characters into supernatural circumstances
without the usual sputtering through the period of disbelief until the
character is faced with the inevitable evidence that "yes, there is
a devil (or an angel, or a ghost, or whatever the story is about) standing
in front of me".
Joanna, in Qinmeartha and the Girl-Child LoChi has no problem
knowing her dreams are telling her something. She realizes they are
depicting truth. In addition, she knows the Gilmours are turning into
nightmare creatures and exchanging their genders with each other, and
that the town is dying by an unknown force. Yet she is just as firmly
rooted in the mundane world of losing a job, having an abortion and
being dumped by a boyfriend. She's not clairvoyant or mystical. Yet
being thrust into the realm of the supernatural is not a shock or a
fight. It feels normal; the flow of the story is not compromised.
Likewise, Matthew is convinced his dreams are more than just respite
from the day's demands. Someone is contacting him through them. He's
a normal guy in college -- somewhat nerdy, maybe, but pretty average.
College guys in general would probably ignore the feeling that a dream
was more than a dream. But, like Joanna in the Grant novel, Matthew
accepts it, and we unquestioningly follow his foray into the fantastic.
One unbelievable element in Matthew's story is the agreement between
six individuals that the most astounding discovery of all time should
be kept secret. It's a bit hard to swallow a situation where not one
of these persons would believe there's a way to contain these potentially
dangerous members of a lost species. When someone's scientific reputation
could be elevated to Jane Goodall status overnight, it would be difficult
to keep the news to oneself. But we'll forgive the pat ending.
Both stories grip from beginning to end and, although they're disparate
in intent and feel, they make a good juxtaposition. And a nice sampling
of the two authors' work to boot.
Review by Sue Lange.
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