[Book Review] The Moon Pool by A. Merritt ~Appendix N~

' Appendix N Readings

    The Moon Pool
    ~Abraham Merritt

I had trouble starting this book. The negative reviews kept turning me away. Usually they revolved around the book being dated because current knowledge ruined the plot and while it may have been good in an age of exploration, that time is over. I also struggled with the introduction and the first few pages.

Once I got into it however, those reviews seemed more and more like people who never read The Moon Pool. No current planetary knowledge nor cosmology or even quantum mechanics invalidate this tale.

A third of the way through the story turns. The tense tale from the start becomes something else entirely however the prose remains beautiful. The complexity of the tale rises and becomes more interesting despite having to remember which character is which.

Two-thirds of the way into this dynamic adventure it seems complete and as the reader I wonder why I would read any further. All is well. Then we're presented with another climax, and then another. It may seem elongated however near the end is bar none the best one on one battle of vengeance with such a riveting sequence that I started cheering and yelling at the book in joyous "No way!" type talk. It makes Liam Neeson look like a droopy eyed armless child and Chuck Norris one of the detached limp arms. That scene alone is worth the book but you need the build up as written to gain the effect. In fact this subtle build up to what can only be described as a true reckoning is a masterpiece all adventure writers should read.

What feels like 'true' climaxes end up being buildup to the actual climax and finale. Only in retrospect do you see the genius of Merritt's setup. It really had to be this way.

There is a final moment as the reader, where biting your lip, you know that in the end you will either cry triumphant and feel warmth in the cockles of your heart to sleep peacefully or you will fire the book across the room. Only by reading The Moon Pool in full will you know which.

Very minor spoiler in this paragraph. Merritt's protagonist sees something and states it's not the Bifrost Bridge of myth and then goes on to describe exactly what Bifrost is supposed to look like. Perhaps it was Merritt's way of saying that while one is myth, this bridge is real! Yet after all the fantastical things seen by the protagonist, he suddenly now can not accept the Bifrost Bridge? It struck me as odd, but I'm sure one can rationalize it; probably those complaining about Tycho (moon crater and inside joke).

This tale has in it one of my pet peeves usually seen in the Sword & Planet genre. Here is a fake quote as an example- "We passed some Dwarves holding a hand at their waist, maybe with a weapon hidden. Later I found out it was the Bludip which was used for..." It's when the storyteller explains how he found out all this stuff afterwards, but he is otherwise talking in the now. Now we walk up the slope, years later I found out the slope was named after a blah blah blah. Luckily, The Moon Pool only does this a few times, unlike say or .

Some of the descriptions are hard for me to visualize despite the vibrant writing as they describe things so foreign to my senses. Problematic is that I tend to skim through descriptions toward action however in this book I would go back and reread such things. His use of adjectives can occasionally be overwhelming and yet they fill the book with a unique charm.

One thing Merritt does well, is the chase scene. I was reading madly with eyes awide; word after word passing from my eyes into my ever increasingly stressed mind.

He also tends to describe things in action oriented sentences like, "the arch leaped a pit," describing a stationary object.

This isn't a book I read in one sitting. In fact I rarely read more than one chapter at a time. This was mostly due to the prose and wanting to bathe in it's beauty before moving on. I was brought to tears more than once just from the flow of Merrit's words.

In the end it seemed like too much story for one book, which is kind of odd to say as it's not an especially large tome and it's filled with extensive if alien descriptions, however the depth of story is remarkable.

I later found out that The Moon Pool was originally a short story and a separate sequel. This makes sense and it reads like two books combined. See what I did there? Look back six paragraphs.

It's easy to see why HP Lovecraft considered Merritt to be an influence on his work but Merritt combines other flavours of pulp, creepiness, fantasy, narration, purity and more in a unique way using his flowery eloquent prose that while occasionally makes your eyes glaze it ever more often instils powerful emotions.

The Moon Pool feels like it was written in the twenties but in my opinion is superior to other contemporaries and is an essential book for any authentic fantasy reader. This is after all a book from Appendix N; a list of books that influenced the 70s Dungeons & Dragons and all that follow.

Pulp meets Fantasy meets Sword and Sandal/Planet meets Lovecraft meets Tesla meets Disney (before Walt died) meets Gygax.

A bit of a slog at times but so very worthwhile. Public domain and available very cheap and even free!

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