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Titus Crow: The Clock of Dreams & Spawn of the Winds
Brian Lumley
Tor Books

Titus Crow
Brian Lumley
Brian Lumley was born in 1937 at Horden, England. He has written horror and fantasy since the late 1960's. Retiring from the British Army in 1980, he became a full-time writer. His work includes the Necroscope series of novels. Lumley's short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies and often been selected for volumes of The Year's Best Horror. His story, "Fruiting Bodies" won the British Fantasy Award.

Brian Lumley Home Page
The Worlds of Brian Lumley
Brian Lumley Tribute Site
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Stephen M. Davis

Brian Lumley is a fine writer, but Titus Crow: The Clock of Dreams & Spawn of the Winds is not fine writing. In places, it is not even passable writing. The dialogue is insipid, the descriptive passages hackneyed and the plots formulaic.

Mr. Lumley is attempting to recreate the writing style of the best of the pulp fiction from sixty years ago. What he settles for, instead, is the writing style of the worst of H. Rider Haggard, who wrote such thrillers as King Solomon's Mines and Allan Quatermain, with chapter titles like "A Slaughter Grim and Great," "War! Red War," and "Away! Away!".

The publisher, Tor Books, believes the two novels presented in this omnibus edition to be inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft. It is true that Lovecraft created the original inhabitants of the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as the Dreamland in which Mr. Lumley's Clock of Dreams operates. Lovecraft, though, was talented enough to transport his readers to the realm of Dreamland, whereas Mr. Lumley merely takes them to the borders of unconsciousness.

In The Clock of Dreams, Henri-Laurent de Marigny must rescue his friend, Titus Crow, and Crow's female companion (described as a girl-goddess by the unenlightened residents of Dreamland) from torture and death at the hands of some menacing, turbaned, wholly evil merchants, who are in league with the less savory Elder Gods.

Here is the initial description of Kthanid, a cousin--according to Mr. Lumley--of Cthulhu, and a force for good in de Marigny's quest:

His body was mountainous! [Over 2,000 feet, according to my dictionary's definition, but Mr. Lumley is probably using a bit of poetic license here.] And yet his folded-back, fantastic wings trembled in seeming agitation as Kthanid paced the enormous flags, his great octopoid head, with its proliferation of face tentacles, turning this way and that in what was plainly consternation.
Personally, I got lost trying to picture those fantastic wings trembling. If the reader is able to navigate that image, he then must consider how a human observer could possibly read consternation in the face of a creature with an octopus for a head.

I don't want to belabor the point. I'll end my examination of The Clock of Dreams with a piece of dialogue from page 68 of the novel. Titus Crow, Dreamer Extraordinaire, and his lover, Tiania, a "beautiful girl-goddess," are tied spread-eagled, moments away from torture and further humiliation:

The two gazed at each other, and for a moment their love blazed through all the misery. "Oh, Titus," the wondrous girl's equally wondrous voice, weak now and terrified, spoke to her Earthman. "Is this really how it is all to end?" "Tiania," Crow's own voice plumbed the depths of wretchedness and shame, "I would not have--"
"Hush, my Titus," she shook her head, "for I would have it no other way. If we suffer and die, then we suffer and die together. Do you think I would even want to live without you?"
If this is an example of the "verve and brio" the publisher mentions in the jacket notes, I can only say that I'd be happier if they removed the brio and inserted better dialogue.

Spawn of the Winds, the second novel, is slightly less bad than The Clock of Dreams, but only because its initial setting is more realistic than Dreamland, where the men are men, the women are "girl-goddesses" and the dialogue reads like shop floor scraps left over from the manufacture of a Harlequin novel.

In Spawn of the Winds, Hank Silberhutte and his companions go out searching for Ithaqua--the Thing that Walks on the Wind--and are immediately captured by this malevolent creature, who takes the party and their airplane through the dimensions to the cold wastes of Borea. Silberhutte's story is relayed by Juanita Alvarez who, through a remarkable plot device, is only able to send and receive telepathic messages from Hank Silberhutte.

The method of narration is clumsy: Juanita Alvarez is supposedly relaying events as Silberhutte fills her in after the fact, yet Mr. Lumley continues to write out long stretches of trivial dialogue, which no normal person would remember or relay. The only entertaining feature of the novel is the final three pages--"The Final Transmission"--pages so bad that Mr. Lumley had to be laughing while he wrote them.

I would suggest that, for the twenty-five dollars Tor Books wants for this omnibus edition, the reader could purchase the first three volumes of Mr. Lumley's Necroscope series, which is far better reading.

Copyright © 1997 by Stephen M. Davis

Steve is faculty member in the English department at Piedmont Technical College in Greenwood, S.C. He holds a master's in English Literature from Clemson University. He was voted by his high school class as Most Likely to Become a Young Curmudgeon.

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