Fifty years ago, the Upheaval struck the Earth. Oceans rose and cities sank, and a new ruling order took power in the name of a new faith. Michael De Vore served the new gods well, both before the Upheaval and after. Then he disappeared. Now, after decades, it is possible he has returned.
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By Tim Stevens
Jun 12, 2012
Philip Challinor's novel opens with an epigram that leaves the reader in little doubt as to the kind of book it is, which helpfully frees the reviewer to mention the C word – Cthulhu – without fear of spoiling anything. Providence Fell is neither a 1920s-Massachusetts-based pastiche, nor an attempt to update the setting of the mythos to one of present-day urban paranoid grimness. Rather, we are in a future dystopia fifty years after a catastrophic event called the Upheaval – the exact nature is never specified, though billions have died and the world's geography has changed. Helping enforce the new religious order is a middle-aged, jaded 'inquisitor' named Haggard (perhaps a little too obviously, unless I'm missing an H. Rider reference). Having incurred the displeasure of his superiors, Haggard is sent to the run-down district of Providence Fell to keep an eye on Michael De Vore, an elderly man who was once one of the senior leaders of the religious order but disappeared after the... More > Upheaval and has now resurfaced. There is little reference in the early and even middle sections of the story to the usual trappings of the mythos, but the atmosphere of growing dread present in Lovecraft's best work is superbly developed as Haggard ensconces himself in the boarding house where De Vore is living and involves himself in the lives of its odd and in some cases sinister denizens. Violence, when it erupts, is of a most upsetting sort. And the method by which the nameless horrors behind the veil are revealed to be intruding into 'our' world is impressively unique, in a field where yet another variety of tentacled being is the best that many writers have to offer. Menacing, suspenseful and disturbing, Providence Fell is also profound in the points it makes about religion, its purpose and its dangers. As such, it's that rare thing: a genuinely original contribution to the genre. I can't recommend it highly enough.< Less
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