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The Rim of Morning

por William Sloane

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260878,940 (3.86)18
"In the 1930s, William Sloane wrote two brilliant novels that gave a whole new meaning to cosmic horror. In To Walk the Night, Bark X and his college buddy Jerry Lister, a science whiz, head back to the old alma mater to catch a football game and to visit a cherished professor of astronomy. In the midst of the game, a strange inimical presence seems to grip the entire stadium; after, the two young men discover the body of their professor, consumed by fire; and before long Jerry is married to the professor's uncannily beautiful, young widow, Selena, and settled in the Arizona desert, where there's an unobstructed view of the stars--and of the darkness of space. In Edge of Running Water, Julian Blair, a brilliant electrophysicist, has retired to remotest Maine after the death of his beautiful young wife. After living as a recluse for years, he issues an urgent summons to a former student, Richard Sayles, now a well-regarded professor of psychology. At Setauket Point, Sayles finds a house shunned by suspicious locals and under the guard of an unpleasant and uncooperative housekeeper, Mrs. Walters. There is also stunning Anne, Blair's sister-in-law. Meanwhile, Julian, dead to the world, stays locked in his study. The Rim of Morning: two novels about the inescapable link between knowledge and sacrifice, the other, unspeakable, unknowable, unendurable side of the world we think we know. About the silence out there"--… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 8 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Classic horror - it's refreshing to read how old-fashioned horror used to take its time building a haunting tone, in lieu of jump-out-to-scare-you moments and gore. The tone in the first book - To Walk the Night - builds slowly but interestingly. The baddy in this one is a woman who carries a creepy aura, but whom no one can explain. By all accounts, she's beautiful and graceful. And has a cold, if dangerously sharp, persona. The men who are drawn to her never last long, dying by their own hand or in inexplicable fashion. A parlor-type tale, suitable for a large fire in the grate and a brandy in the hand to ward off the chill created in the read. This edition has a very nice introduction by Stephen King - follow his advice and read it after you read the stories. ( )
  blackdogbooks | Apr 4, 2021 |
The two novels contained in The Rim of Morning: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror by William Sloane are surprisingly satisfying. Well-written and displaying a strong command both of style and the standards of the scifi horror genre, these works present an interesting look into the early history of such work.

They function well as science fiction and even better as mysteries and tales of horror.

These novels make me wonder how much influence Mr. Sloane might have had on the genre if he'd continued his career as an author. Instead, he turned away from writing and spent most of his life as an editor and publisher.

In his introduction, Stephen King lauds Mr. Sloane's work as cross-genre, mashing up scifi and horror decades before cross-genre was all the rage, as it is today. I think Mr. King is wrong about this.

Science fiction has a long history of finding terror in the territory it explores. Scifi horror stories were incredibly popular in the late '30s. Look also at the mass market pulp magazines of the Golden Age and prior, or the scifi movies on the '40s, '50s, and '60s—there are innumerable tales of monsters and creeping fear in the scifi canon. The fear of technology and aliens, mutated monsters and doomsday weapons, is deeply rooted.

Science pushes us beyond the limits of what we know. It stands to reason that science has long been a focal point for our fear of the unknown. Science has always presented as much threat as opportunity, and scifi has had the pulse of that from the beginning.

Mr. Sloane wasn't creating ahead-of-his-time genre mash-ups with these novels. Rather, his goal was to take the popular scifi horror tales of his time and elevate them to a higher level of literature.

In this, he largely succeeded.

Both novels are well-conceived and plotted, letting the suspense simmer just the right amount of time before the crisis comes to a boil. The Edge of Running Water is notably superior to To Walk the Night, being more confident and commanding in tone and style.

If I'm disappointed by anything in these novels, it's that the climax of The Edge of Running Water strikes me as too small and somewhat anticlimactic. I expected mass destruction and got small-scale ruin, instead. I must keep in mind, though, that my expectations have been conditioned by giant SF movie spectaculars and this novel was written in 1939. The ending was probably sufficiently shocking for its time.

Beyond that, I'm surprised most of all by how well these stories hold up to modern expectations. It's to be expected that the characters occasionally speak and behave in ways that seem dated, and the technology on display is closer to the Steam Age than the Digital Age.

But the works still feel fresh and vibrant. The central themes still resonate. They don't feel stale.

I'm particularly impressed by how Mr. Sloane wrote his female characters. Being works from the late '30s, one expects a certain pre-feminist depiction of women. Instead, he presents women who are smart, strong, and capable. Women who are very much the equal of the men. Women who have personalities as varied as the men. In short—women who are believable people and not just femmes to compliment the men.

Compared to much of the scifi from this era, it puts Mr. Sloane far ahead of his contemporaries.

The Rim of Morning is worth reading for the glimpse it provides into the history of the scifi horror genre.

More importantly, it's worth reading because these novels are good. ( )
1 vote johnthelibrarian | Aug 11, 2020 |
I'd had this one on my shelf for a long time before being inspired to take it down for 2018's Halloween Bingo.

William Sloane (no Kennedy) inspires a lot of what-ifs. It's incredible to think that after producing these two works he never produced another long work of fiction. The two novellas have echoes of Lovecraft, but with a distinct - and more refined - flavor of their own. Lovecraft was many things, but he was never an effective prose stylist the way Sloane is in these two works.

'To Walk the Night'

After the tragic death of his friend, Berkeley Jones goes out to Jerry Lister's father's house to tell him what he believes happened. The two had witnessed the death of a professor of theirs in his lab from strange radiation, and subsequently Jerry marries the widow of the professor. There is something unusual about the Selena, however, that Berkeley can't figure out. He is even given disturbing, improbable evidence about Selena, but (mostly) keeps quiet about his suspicions in order to keep his friend. Sloane masterfully draws the relationship between Berkeley and Jerry, to my modern eye there was some homoerotic undercurrents beneath their corduroys and within their tastefully decorated bachelor apartment. Selena has come between old friends and upset the balance of their friendship, there couldn't be anything else to it could there that Berkeley resents?

Even when the reader guesses what's going on, Sloane has created a chilling science fiction novel.

'The Edge of Running Water'

This has more of the feel of Lovecraft to it - the remote New England setting, the dramatic old house situated above the water, and secrets behind a closed door.

Richard, a professor in psychology, receives a letter from an old friend - and romantic rival - Julian requesting help in a new experiment. Richard is unsure how he could help an expert in electrophysics, but as they've been estranged since the death of Julian's wife some years before.

Tragedy is hinted at, so the reader closely examines the old house Julian's converted into his lab, the sinister lab assistant Mrs. Walters, even the presence of the friendly housekeeper and Julian's wife's sister Anne, are viewed with suspicion.

This had more elements of the detective mystery story entwined with the horror and sf elements and falls flat a few times, but still a fascinating glimpse at a talent that we should have seen more from. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Mar 9, 2019 |
𝘛𝘰 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘬 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘕𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵:

“There are some experiences which are alien to everyday life; they are ‘doomed for a certain term to walk the night’ before the mind of man either recognizes them for what they are or dismisses their appearance as fantasy.”

It’s hard to believe this book was written in 1937. It feels far more modern. It’s not hard to believe in the premise, as fantastic is it turns out to be. It is so much better than most modern horror. That’s probably because it’s barely horror, more properly terror, and skirts Sci-Fi and fantasy just enough for the passengers in the speeding car in the desert to catch an ambiguous glimpse of . . . what, exactly? An expression unpins the fabric. A misplaced question turns the light of the lamp in the speaker’s direction. An unusual gait hints at alienness or deliberate replication or a different way for all that soft biology to slip and slosh beneath loose skin.

To say I loved this book would be an understatement. It may be unparalleled in its genre—even besting works by Walter Tevis, Heinlein, and Jack Finney. By focusing on character, atmosphere, and subtle details carefully linked like de novo sequencing, the plot can promulgate organically and not be forced to drive the whole story. This latter obligation to blueprint every damn twist and turn in a story is my biggest pet peeve with most Sci-Fi, Fantasy, or Horror, and when I find a rare example that kicks that annoyance in the chops, I latch onto it with full force. The dialogue alone is enough to distinguish this from the glutted pack of novelty-crazed sensationalists. You know, like that warm glow of awareness after you first read Vonnegut’s 𝘊𝘢𝘵’𝘴 𝘊𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘭𝘦 or 𝘚𝘭𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘦-𝘍𝘪𝘷𝘦. Wait . . . science fiction can do this? Can be literature? Doesn’t have to kowtow to a fanbase? No need to spoon-feed the puritanical toadies of fan fiction? Canonical fictional universes be damned! I don’t give a fuck how many elvish languages Tolkien created if he didn’t have the good sense to 𝘯𝘰𝘵 show the same damn mountain in the opposite direction when the protagonists turned around to needlessly elongate an already bloated saga. (Yes, I’ve read all the many appendices to TLOTR. Sigh.) Butt-eye-dye-gress . . .

A well-written tale is an achievement in and of itself. A story that hits you emotionally is worth its wait in discarded tissues. A book that makes you pause and contemplate the ramifications is a thing to be hunted. But a work that can sew together all these pieces without a hint of stitching? Sublime. Poetic as diamonds that turn out to be stars having been used by grander beings to drill into distant universes.

“With a single quick motion she stripped her finger of the two rings, the one with the great square emerald in it, and the narrow band of gold with which Jerry had married her, and put them on the table between us. They lay there, bright and beautiful, on the painted iron, and we looked at them. I did not see her go, but the sound of her feet died along the terrace and around the corner of the house.”

𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘌𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘙𝘶𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘞𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘳:

“I thought of the shadowy living room, of the river water noiselessly running and running, almost under the sills of its windows. A hundred years and more this house had stood here, alone on the Point. A hundred years of sun and storm, of winters and summers, of dark and light. It was old, but it was not its age that gave me the tight feeling I had in the pit of my stomach.”

This second novel collected in 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘙𝘪𝘮 𝘰𝘧 𝘔𝘰𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 is just as remarkable as the first. Remarkable comes from a French word meaning to “take note of”. Alas, these two novels are the only works of fiction I can find by this singular author. And if it hadn’t been for the remarkable series NYRB Classics reprinting the original collection, I’d have had to spend way more money than intended on out-of-print versions—if I’d even heard of the author without the re-release. It’s remarkably sad that there isn’t more from this great, subtle, methodical mind to plumb. Stephen King said it appropriately in his introduction: “ . . . we must be grateful for what we have, which is a splendid rediscovery” since “Sloan takes what he needs from multiple genres, an ability only well-read novelists possess, and makes something new and remarkable from them.” Remarkable. That word again.

Both novels have at their core a warning against digging too deeply into the unknown. Your spade may only strike rocks or bricks or bits of other unknown things. Or, you may come up against a rift in spacetime, sucking that shovel right out of your hand. Maybe you’d clang against an alien spine twisting in the earth. Maybe the horror you’d resurrected and unleashed on the unsuspecting world would be of your own doing—and that would be the greatest horror of them all.

I’d like to think I’ve come close with my own fiction to the subtle yet shining terror in these two novels. Somehow, though, I’ll remain restless and continue to chase that wispy demon. Or maybe it’s chasing me. Whichever the direction, whichever the demon, I’ll ignore that core warning in both of Sloane’s novels and keep on fucking digging. In spadefuls. And hope to have found something nearly as remarkable.

“But the few times when I have tried to imagine what that final moment was like for him, my mind does not picture it quite that way. The funnel of blackness must have grown hideously large by then. Perhaps it filled most of the room, from ceiling to floor. I think Julian may have made no effort to resist it. At least, in the picture of my mind, he is simply walking into it, like a man going through a door . . .”
  ToddSherman | Aug 23, 2018 |
To Walk the Night: This is contained in an omnibus with another novella by Sloane, The Edge of Running Water. It is tagged as "weird," and I can see how it has a Lovecraftian flair, but perhaps it is a bit dated now, because it didn't seem so weird to me. The writing is very good, clean and modern with no overtly stylistic flourishes, but as I say, it is dated and displays a characteristic awe/dread/othering of the female that I have detected in a lot of older weird fiction and that I find off-putting. I am not in a hurry to read the second novella in the volume and will instead move on to other things. ( )
  sturlington | Mar 27, 2018 |
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"In the 1930s, William Sloane wrote two brilliant novels that gave a whole new meaning to cosmic horror. In To Walk the Night, Bark X and his college buddy Jerry Lister, a science whiz, head back to the old alma mater to catch a football game and to visit a cherished professor of astronomy. In the midst of the game, a strange inimical presence seems to grip the entire stadium; after, the two young men discover the body of their professor, consumed by fire; and before long Jerry is married to the professor's uncannily beautiful, young widow, Selena, and settled in the Arizona desert, where there's an unobstructed view of the stars--and of the darkness of space. In Edge of Running Water, Julian Blair, a brilliant electrophysicist, has retired to remotest Maine after the death of his beautiful young wife. After living as a recluse for years, he issues an urgent summons to a former student, Richard Sayles, now a well-regarded professor of psychology. At Setauket Point, Sayles finds a house shunned by suspicious locals and under the guard of an unpleasant and uncooperative housekeeper, Mrs. Walters. There is also stunning Anne, Blair's sister-in-law. Meanwhile, Julian, dead to the world, stays locked in his study. The Rim of Morning: two novels about the inescapable link between knowledge and sacrifice, the other, unspeakable, unknowable, unendurable side of the world we think we know. About the silence out there"--

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