Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, July 16, 2021


 The Face in the Abyss by A. Merritt  (1931)

"At his left was a garden!  A garden of evil!

"There, a narrow stream ran over the floor of the cavern in curves and intricate loops.  It was crimson, like a stream of sluggishly running blood.  Upon its banks were great red lilies, tainted and splotched with venomous greens; orchid blooms of sullen purple veined with unclean scarlets; debauched roses; obscene thickets of what seemed to be shoots of young bamboo stained with verdigris; crouching trees from whose branches hung heart-shaped fruits of leprous white; patches of fleshy leafed plants from whose mauve centers protuded thick yellowish spikes shaped like hooded adders down whose sides slowly dripped glistening drops of some dreadful nectar."

Clunky and purple those sentences may be, but they are just a small part of a book that has enthralled readers for almost a century.  Abraham Merritt had already earned a reputation among fantasy fans with "The Moon Pool" (All-Story Weekly, June 22, 1918) "The Conquest of the Moon Pool" (All-Story Weekly, in six parts, beginning February 15, 1919); the two combined to form the novel The Moon Pool (1919).  This was followed by another adventure of one of that book's protaganist, Walter Goodwin, in The Metal Monster (Argosy All-Story Weekly, in eight parts, beginning August 7, 1920; book publication in 1945 in the author's preferred text -- about 25% shorter than the 1920 serialized version).  Then came the magazine versions of The Ship of Ishtar (1924), Seven Footprints to Satan (1927), and The Dwellers in the Mirage (1932).  All five books are classics of the imagination, if not those of sterling prose.  Merritt knew how to take his readers on a wild ride and his public loved it.

"The Face in the Abyss" was a novella published in Argosy All-Story Weekly, September 8, 1923, and reprinted in Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Story Annual in 1927.  Merritt did not get around to publishing its sequel, "The Snake Mother" until 1930 in a seven-part serial in Argosy, beginning with the October 25, 1930 issue.  The two were combined -- with considerable cutting -- as The Face in the Abyss in 1931.

Among the books yellowed pages are a brave hero, a beautiful and mysterious native woman, treasures untold, a hidden city deep hidden somehwere in the Andes, a hunting party of man-sized dinosaurs led by a man on an even larger dinosaur, giant spider-like intelligent creatures, lizard men, a lost city, an ancient Lord of Evil imprisoned in stone (the giant "Face in the Abyss" of the title, which weeps golden tears and can melt men into those golden droplets to fall into the darkness of the abyss), decadent immortals, political intrigue, rebellion, the surviviors of an ancient race from when the Antarctic was a jungle, winged serpents that can turn invisible, advanced tehnology (somewhat illogically erratic, in the best pulp tradition, and Adana -- the incredibly ancient Snake Mother, part woman, part serpent.

Hmm.  Did I miss anything?  I'm sure I did, because Merritt packed a lot into this book.

The book ends with a final clash between the forces of Good and the forces of Evil.  Guess who wins?

Read this one for a roller coaster ride of adventure m-- early Twenieth Century pulp style.  Thousands of others have.

1 comment:

  1. I read The Face in the Abyss by A. Merritt (1931) way back in the 1960s. I read a lot of A. Merritt back then. Loved it!