Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Book Review: In The Yaddith Time by Ann K. Schwader

In The Yaddith Time by Ann K. Schwader is a thirty-six sonnet sequence inspired by H. P. Lovecraft's "Fungi from Yuggoth". It is set in the shared universe of the Lovecraft Mythos, and reads very much like a narrative tale focused around the crew of a spaceship which lands on Mars and discovers crystals in a hidden cave which wake the Mi-go, a lost, elder race who have the power to make men mad. The entire crew is lost to the Mi-go, with the exception of the young, female narrator. However, the last line of the sequence, "The destiny of Man is to give way," leads the reader to believe that all hope is lost for humanity, that all will be lured by the knowledge that the Mi-go promise.

What makes this book so intriguing is the way Schwader is able to tell her tale in a minimal fashion, but without losing anything important. These sonnets carry a plot through them, but each could easily stand alone as individual pieces as well. A favorite is "A Dream of Home":

I walked on Earth our mother, sweetly green
as legend paints her, clean in sea & sky,
with birdsong in the branches like a cry
of paradise regained...until that scene
dream-shifted into chaos. Sudden night
spread shadowwings in one vast inky smear,
erasing daylight as a shriek of fear
arose from every throat: the stars turn right!

Mild seas brewed tempests then, & skies split wide,
revealing such uncleanness writhing in
upon our luckless planet from Outside
that men ran mad. Half leaping from my skin
with terror I awoke--to find our crew
all shared my nightmare, screaming it was true.

This sonnet, along with others in the book, is gorgeously illustrated by Steve Lines, whose illustrations help the reader in visualizing the elements of the Lovecraft Mythos.

That, of course, is the problem with this book, and any book in a shared universe--readers must be familiar with said universe to trully understand the poems. As Richard L. Tierney writes in his introduction to this volume, "only those of us dark acolytes who are steeped in Lovecraftian lore will 'get it' when we read this dark epic." While I understand this sentiment, and felt alienated at times myself, as I am not as familiar with Lovecraft's work or the Lovecraft Mythos, I think it it workable. First off, Schwader's poetry is so multifaceted and multilayered that, while a non-Lovecraftian based reader may not get every intricate detail and allusion, they can still read the book, understand the plot and the tone, and come away with something; however, for readers who want to get more out of the book, there are many resources in print and on the web which they can use to steep themselves in this universe and glean more from Schwader's poems.

With In The Yaddith Time, Ann K. Schwader has written a very solid response to Lovecraft's own sonnet cycle, "Fungi from Yuggoth." This is a really fun read which teeters between science fiction and horror, but also keeps alive a shared universe from one of the great masters of horror. That being said, upon rereading, one could argue that In The Yaddith Time is equally a cautionary tale, exploring mankind's thirst for knowledge and its apparent parallel, self-destruction.

1 comment:

MorganScorpion said...

I MUST get a copy of this, so far, it sounds right up my street.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau