Echoes of Eternity by Brian Stableford
Published by Chambrion Books 2016
Review by Sally Startup
Set in Paris in 1830, this is a tale with a complicated weave. It deserves attentive reading. There is much interesting historical detail. There are threads from Brian’s previous work and that of H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. And there are some mind-expanding ideas.
On the eve of Quasimodo, five people meet in Notre Dame Cathedral. Victor Hugo, Paul Lacroix and Blaise Thibodeaux are all developing ideas for the books they plan to write. The Byronic violinist, Doctor Prospero, has arrived in Paris only recently and has been searching for the lost sheet music composed by Erich Zann. These four are all interested in the legend of the Quasimodo Peal, and are willing to experiment in order to discover more.
Brother Barnabas, on the other hand, is a Dominican who has been trusted by his superiors with glimpses of forbidden literature. As a child, he heard the Quasimodo Peal, before revolutionaries melted down all but one of the bells for cannon. However, he has no conscious memory of what they sounded like, much to the disappointment of Doctor Prospero. After what happened to the violinist Erich Zann, Barnabas is also well aware of the risk taken by those who go actively looking for evidence of such things as Nyarlathotep, the crawling chaos.
Being a keen reader myself, I could not help finding metaphorical connections between the magic of literature and the kind of magic that interests Prospero and Thibodeaux. There are plenty of clues that the author agrees. However, it is through the art of music, its echoes and its effects on the emotions, that these characters wish to test their theories. And thoughts can be infectious, however they are transmitted, especially when they connect with minds already primed to receive them.
There are great many ‘what if?’ ideas mentioned within this story (my personal favourite being, ‘what if artistic creativity were transmitted by invisible organisms?’). The significance of such ideas to physical and metaphorical worlds is likely to depend on one’s point of view. Since the main characters are all conscientious thinkers, their discussions and internal thoughts are described at length. The progression of these theories as they are revealed provides a slowly developing, yet powerful, narrative tension.
When the harmonies of Hell are performed, what effects do they have, whom do they affect, and when? Several characters suggest possible answers. For myself, I found the resultant tale initially chilling, then ultimately reassuring and encouraging.