Living With the Dead by Brian Stableford
Published by Black Coat Press 2019
review by Sally Startup
No longer in Paris, Paul Furnuret lives in an isolated mountain cottage near Toulouse. He feels psychically protected. His portraits of Juliette, Jane and his embryonic sister are there to keep him company, as is Madame Louvot, who now acts as his housekeeper. However, Zosima’s all-female cult have taken over an old convent building nearby. There are rumours of conflict within their community. At the same time, various ‘alpinists’ are intent on exploring the Great Cleft, a rock fissure reputed to be bottomless.
It is 1909. Paul has become quite successful as a painter. Even without the aid of hypnosis, he is almost able to enter trance states at will, just by practising his art. And yet, he has more to discover regarding the workings of his talent and his own deeper nature. Both Madame Louvot and Zosima still fear that he is in some danger.
The arrival of the young English inheritors of the legal rights to the mountain, only adds to the atmosphere of impending change. Soon there are a number of unsettling revelations. As Paul learns more of the intricacies of everyone’s psychic and imaginary landscapes, his attitude remains kind. Nevertheless, he cannot help but feel threatened and vulnerable.
Yet Paul is an artist. When he finally learns some of his own deepest truths, he believes himself capable of surviving. He may, however, need the support of all of his friends, including those who are now dead.
In this concluding novel of a trilogy, there are visionary hints of the marvellous and complicated depths to which scientific exploration leads. The novel brings science, superstition, pseudohistory and folklore together. All within the imagination of an artist.