Telos Publishing, Ltd.
Trade Paper, 122 pages, $17.95, £9.99
(Available through Telos)
Review by Sheila Merritt
Archaeological horror is most often associated with disturbing the tombs of mummies. In Humpty’s Bones, author Simon Clark opts for an earthier approach: A fragmented skeleton is dug up on a site sacred to the ancient Romans. A secretive, sleepy English village is the setting; a place where buried history is revered and feared. The villagers, with the help of outsider Eden Page, must appease forces unleashed by the disruption of the remains. Clark’s strengths are apparent in this slim story. There is evocative atmosphere, well developed characters, and high tension.
Eden enters the town of Dog Lands under bizarre circumstances: Her latest lover set fire to her abode; an extreme example of a string of unhappy couplings. Needing somewhere to stay, she goes to her aunt’s rural home; a dwelling located in a remote region that is rife with superstition. The separateness of the community is superbly described: “The houses of Dog Lands stood proud of the flat Yorkshire landscape as if striving hard not to be part of it, like family members trying to distance themselves from that troublesome, eccentric uncle at a wedding.”
The bones that Eden’s aunt excavates and analyzes are a jigsaw puzzle of the past. It appears that the remnants are from “A man from a different species,” and there are implications that this could lead to “the eventual extinction of Homo Sapiens.” Eden is quite taken with the idea; but she’s never shown sound judgment regarding men.
Humpty’s Bones is 85 pages in length; the volume includes another tale Danger Signs, about four twelve year olds entering a restricted military zone. Danger Signs relies mostly on a boogey man/children in peril theme for its frights, and is not as engaging as the story that precedes it. Both works are enhanced through introductions by Clark in which he discusses the inspirations for the stories.
Simon Clark is a writer who knows how to convey mood and employ moody characterization. Humpty’s Bones has a restrained reference to the Humpty Dumpty rhyme; it addresses the concept of attempting to put things “together again:” Not simply by assembling and understanding some long unearthed bones, but also concerning learning to adapt to unusual relationships. The possibilities are vast and yet intimate. This is a rare, find; indeed.
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