46. The Keep: F. Paul Wilson

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46. The Keep: F. Paul Wilson

Post  Patguy on Wed Dec 30, 2009 2:07 am

An interesting horror novel, of a type I don’t read often any more: a terrific premise, competent execution, bad writing. It’s 1941, and a detachment of German soldiers are assigned to guard a remote Romanian mountain pass, setting up base in a small medieval keep. They wind up accidentally awakening some ancient evil, and the SS is called in to help. After a few more deaths, the SS officer in charge kidnaps the one person who knows anything substantial about the keep: a local, Jewish, folklore expert. So Professor Cuza and his daughter Magda must decide whether to help the Nazis, or try to come to terms with the Thing that lives there. Which is worse, the ne plus ultra of political evil, or the unknown type of supernatural evil that inhabits the keep? It’s a harrowing no-win ethical dilemma, and it’s such a strong premise that it kept me reading through even the worst paragraphs, such as:

“To Magda’s surprise, she found that the closer she got to the inn, the less she thought about Papa and the more she thought about Glenn. Guilt tugged at her. She had left her crippled father alone, surrounded by Nazis, to face one of the undead tonight, and her thoughts turned to a stranger. Strolling around to the rear of the inn, she experienced a light feeling in her chest and a quickening of her pulse at the thought of him.”

Sadly it all falls apart at the end, and the Lovecraftian-inflected horror of the early chapters is stripped away to reveal a much more common, boring, good-vs.-evil, low fantasy concept that pollutes the last few chapters and fatally sinks the book. A real missed opportunity here.

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