Saturday Book Review: The Moon Pool by A. Merritt

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The Moon Pool by A. Merritt

Here’s a quotation from this terrible, terrible novel:

“A sea stretched before us–a crimson sea, gleaming like the lost lacquer of royal coral and the Flame Dragon’s blood which Fu S’cze set upon the bower he built for his stolen sun maiden–that going toward it she might think it the sun itself rising over the summer seas. Unmoved by wave or ripple, it was placid as some deep woodland pool when night rushes up over the world. It seemed molten–or as though some hand great enough to rock earth had distilled here from conflagrations of autumn sunsets their flaming essences.”

Oh, there’s much, much more where that came from.

Turgid, saccharine prose and racist, melodramatic characterization just ruined this one for me. And it’s too bad, because there were some moments of genuine high weirdness.

The opening section set in Ponape had all the promise of a great adventure yarn, but then the whole thing unfolded into campy silliness.

The prose is way over the top, and the color palette and setting are second rate DW Griffith mashed up with Maxfield Parish — it feels that dated. It was published in 1919 and you can sure tell.

And there is also this occasional tone of solemn, Theosophical proto-New Ageiness about the whole thing that seriously bugged me. And bored me to death. Many long passages of pseudo scientific mysticism, mostly clunky exposition dumps by the characters, that explain nothing.

I have to give Merritt points for The Silent Ones (ancestors of the Sleestacks for sure) with their reptile/bird bodies, on a floating dais (pulp novelists from this era loved daises) surrounded by mist, adjuticating the mysteries of the universe. And the Frog people were a nice touch.

I was skimming as quickly as possible for the latter 150 pages. Only my indulgence of SF&F, and my compulsive need to finish every book I start kept me going.

Unless you’re a conoisseur of this stuff, you’re better off sticking with H.G. Wells, H.R. Haggard, and Conan Doyle.

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