Tuesday, October 28, 2014
THE 100 GREATEST CROSSOVERS OF ALL TIME #34
This one-shot novel is a conceptual kissing cousin to H.P. Lovecraft's THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH, insofar as it brings together over a dozen characters or milieus created by a single author. But these creations were all spawned by Edgar Allan Poe, while the two authors bringing them all together for this Poe-pastiche are Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen.
The viewpoint character of the story is one Edgar Allan Perry, who exists in our world but shares a telepathic relationship with his other-dimensional counterpart, Edgar Allan Poe and with a young woman named Annie. Both men are somewhat in love with her, which is enough to motive Perry when he's shunted into a dimension where Poe's literary creations and finds Annie in peril there. I think-- but am not sure-- that Annie is a native of this dimension, while Poe is hurled into Perry's world, which seems to be "our" world, in that Poe will then live out a doleful life in which he never feels at home. Perry, having lived in a time approximate to Poe's, does not recognize any of the people or situations that he meets as being literary creations. The authors devote zero time to explaining why they have independent existence, to say nothing of the fact that their stories are conflated. Dirk Peters, one of the protagonists of Poe's CONFESSIONS OF A. GORDON PYM, not only becomes an aide to Perry, he's altered into being both (1) the sailor who owns the ourang-outang from MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, and (2) the vengeful dwarf from HOP-FROG, who in turn works his devilment on the court of Prince Prospero from THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH.
I presume that Perry's imperiled romantic partner Annie is named for the character from the poem "Annabel Lee." Annie is a powerful psychic who's kidnapped by a threesome of conspirators who want to use her talents to help them obtain an alchemical gold-making process. Two of the conspirators are named for Poe characters, while the third is named for Rufus Griswold, a real-life acquaintance of Poe's who defamed the author after his death. Perry, given the command of a ship by yet another Poe-character ("Seabright Ellison" from THE DOMAIN OF ARNHEIM), undertakes to pursue the villains and liberate Annie.
Although there are a few quotes from Poe's works that contribute to the reader's sense of what Poe accomplished, the simplistic quest-narrative doesn't lend itself to much complexity. It's moderately fun to see Zelazny and Saberhagen bring together so many "centric crossovers," as I've termed them. Aside from those already mentioned, the duo also work in Ligeia, Hans Pfall and his balloon, King Pest and his court, Montressor and Fortunato, the living corpse M. Valdemar, the detective Dupin, a maelstrom, a gold-bug, the pit and the pendulum, and the asylum of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether. And yet, I found that after a while one crossover seemed much like another, and that Perry's quest for Annie took a back seat to all of these witty references.
Still, BLACK THRONE is an exceptional crossover-work even if it's far from perfect as a novel.