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Medusa:  A Story of Mystery and Ecstasy and Strange Horror

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Medusa: A Story of Mystery and Ecstasy and Strange Horror

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Author: E. H. Visiak
Publisher: Centipede Press, 2011
Gollancz, 1929

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Horror
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This "Story of Mystery and Ecstasy and Strange Horror" is a fascinating and altogether unique account of sea-bound terror. E. H. Visiak was a close friend of the brilliant David Lindsay, as well as a renowned authority on the works of John Milton and Joseph Conrad. All three influences are evident in MEDUSA, with Lindsay's peculiar brand of metaphysical horror colliding with a very Miltonian sense of poetic religiosity, all set against a gritty portrayal of life at sea that directly recalls Conrad. A fourth influence would seem to be H.P. Lovecraft, although this novel is a far cry from the pulpy WEIRD TALES style.

Visiak's lofty intentions are evident in the highly refined Milton-esque prose, which is anything but an easy read. There's also the fact that very little happens in the novel's first half, involving a young boy who joins a ship manned by Huxtable, a middle-aged mariner in search of his missing son. The ensuing sea jaunt is none too eventful, although things pick up around the halfway point, with the discovery of a pirate ship containing a single inhabitant: a babbling madman.

A bit later a strange fish-like creature is discovered being harbored by one of the seamen. Turns out the creature is part of an ancient race of super-intelligent humans who created a transmitting machine that transformed them into scaly creatures and caused their land to sink into the sea (all this is related in the form of an "Indian legend" fortuitously recounted by Huxtable). Now it seems the critters subside by luring unsuspecting seamen to their lair, where a vast tentacled entity assails the men with ecstatic visions, thus making it easier for them to be devoured by the "medusa" (which Colon Wilson opines represents the destructive power of sexuality and, by extension, femininity). Such a fate does indeed befall Huxtable's crew, and only those of high spiritual constitution survive the melee.

Such is MEDUSA.


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