Spirits of the Vasty Deep by Brian Stableford Published by Snuggly Books March 2017
Review by Sally Startup
What happens in this novel could be taken entirely metaphorically, or as serious and enlightening science fiction. There is also an element of contemporary fantasy based on historical folklore. I am not particularly concerned about categories of genre, so I read it in all of those ways, and more.
Simon Cannick, an eccentric writer, moves to North Wales and discovers a previously unknown personal history. Simon has always felt himself to be unusual. He also seems to have a propensity to be kind. Being kind can be hard, courageous work, requiring purposeful effort.
Simon’s new community do not exactly welcome outsiders, in spite of the fact that most of the local properties are let as holiday homes. However, with the assistance of the Reverend Alexander Usher; a lady of ill repute called Megan; and a raven named Lenore, he soon discovers that the strangest residents of all may not even be human. He becomes quite intimate with some extremely elderly women, and he converses with a ghost.
As a writer, Simon is familiar with that which is normally hidden. Some of his work has explored this in detail. He now finds himself in a situation that seems to come straight out of Welsh folklore. It also parallels much that he already knows from his own studies of French folklore. Feeling himself to be inside a story he could almost have written himself, Simon begins to fear that he has actually entered the world of an entirely alien author. As he considers all this, his thoughts provide some fascinating exposition about the processes of reading and writing.
Simon may lack confidence in his own writing ability, but his story contains layers and layers of intrigue for serious readers to dive into. Encompassing Simon’s experience is a far wider story concerning what humans know, and cannot know, about the ecosystems of the Earth.