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Brotherly Love & Other Tales of Faith and Knowledge
David Case
Pumpkin Books, 276 pages

Les Edwards
Brotherly Love & Other Tales of Faith and Knowledge
David Case
An American, David Case is the author of two short story collections (The Cell: Three Tales of Horror and Fengriffen and Other Stories) and two novels (Wolf Tracks and The Third Grave).

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A review by Georges T. Dodds

Brotherly Love & Other Tales of Faith and Knowledge contains 3 novellas, 3 short stories and one in between, ranging widely from hardcore Gothic to broad farce. As Ramsey Campbell points out in his introduction, Case is a writer who steers well clear of the recent trend to expand the horror field by escalating the gross-out factor. What Case does give us are well written stories which have intriguing, multi-faceted characters and situations which comment on individual and societal human existence.

In the Gothic title novella, the narrator's search for his disappeared sister leads him to Martin Levanter, son of a villainous rake, heir to a sprawling mist-enshrouded mansion on the moors and its family burial plots, site of a young woman's recent suicide. However, the narrator's increasingly blind conviction of Levanter's guilt leads him into an upward spiral of uncontrolled violence and the righteous and the wicked become increasingly reversed. A wonderful example of how characters needn't be unilaterally good or evil to function in a horror tale.

Similarly, in the novella "Jimmy," a father goes looking for his college-age daughter who has taken a summer job as a doctor's receptionist. His as yet futile search brings him to a small Appalachian town, where unbeknownst to him a number of young women have been victim to or barely escaped a physically monstrous sexual predator. Again, the character that first appears as the epitome of evil soon becomes an object of pity, whose death indirectly leads to the reunification of father and daughter.

The long short story "The Ogre in the Cleft" is perhaps the best story in Brotherly Love. In this fairy tale, set in an "orthodox" Roman Catholic-like society, the hero, Ikon, must kill an ogre living in distant mountains to claim the princess' hand. When the allegedly filthy, barbaric, and worst of all pagan ogre falls accidentally to its death, Ikon begins to realize that it was no more or less human than himself. However, upon his return to civilization his opinions only get him a death sentence, though his priest-friend Vitorio does admit to him that he is right, he is simply politically incorrect. As Vitorio puts it "The fires of belief must never be dampened by the springs of knowledge," and "...truth must always be subordinate to faith." "The Ogre in the Cleft" is a wonderful denunciation of much that is wrong with organized religion past and present, particularly in terms of intolerance and the repression of truth and knowledge.

Similar in tone to Arthur K. Barnes' humorous interplanetary safari stories from the late 30s-early 40s (Interplanetary Hunter; Ace, 1972), "The Terrestrial Fancy," is a farcical tale of science-fiction adventure in the tradition of the 30s pulps. In this, it is as diametrically opposed in mood to the dark Gothic strains of Case's other tales as can be. Nonetheless, what makes the story are the wonderful characters: a full-function humanoid prize-fighting robot (whose moniker is the title of the story) frustrated at Asimov's first law of robotics; a Sam Spade wannabe, reanimated after thousands of years in liquid nitrogen; an orphan boy on the dodge from the authorities questing for a Goliath to test out his sling on; a grizzly old prospector who knows the location of a chunk of an ancient and mysterious power source; a Mae West-like woman of dubious virtue; and a pesky intelligence-enhanced bulldog. Case is able to combine these disparate characters in a story which, while ludicrous from a logical standpoint, is well enough presented to allow one to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride for the sake of the ride.

The two short stories "The Foreign Bride" and "Anachrona" while good, don't have the impact of the longer tales, which may be why Case has rarely chosen this format in his past works. "The Foreign Bride" is a fairly standard tale of jealousy and revenge in a Mandalay-like (i.e., Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier) setting, with the new wife being framed for vampirism. In "Anachrona" three students' 18th-century pilgrimage to view a mechanical man, leads them to cross paths with a mysterious Wandering Jew-like character whose hopes of rediscovered secrets are ultimately quashed.

David Case's Brotherly Love is a book that will stay with you not so much for the frights or laughs it may generate, but for the questions it raises about good and evil, intolerance, and the nature of humanity. All that said, Brotherly Love is no dry philosophical treatise, but a set of stories with lots of action, interesting characters, and plenty of murder and mayhem in, as Ramsey Campbell puts it, "impeccable taste."

Copyright © 2000 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.

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