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The Great White Space

Novel by Basil Copper (England) 1974.

Frederick Seddon Plowright, world-renowned photographer and film maker in the fields of geography and science, publishes a selection of photographs in a geographical journal of strange inscriptions discovered in the Antarctic. These glyphs bring him into contact with Prof. Clark Ashton Scarsdale, who is intrigued by them, having seen others identical to them in other parts of the world. He believes that they appeared at the same time as strange lights in the sky a few years earlier, and invites Plowright to join him on an expedition which will hopefully confirm his theories. Plowright agrees, though he and two of the other three of Scarsdale's companions are unaware of what he expects to find. What eventually occurs will test his sanity to the limits and stay with him for the rest of his life.

Unashamedly Lovecraftian, this is a worthwhile and imaginative addition to the myriad writings that have followed in the master's wake. The events of the Great Northern Expedition are recounted in a strict chronological order with little or nothing in the way of embellishment or background information, and this approach highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Copper has an impressive imagination and his scenery is both vivid and innovative: the discoveries at the ancient subterranean city of Cloth and the events at the Great White Space itself are particularly effective. But most of the book is taken up by the journey itself and the imaginative settings are countered by the cast of characters merely travelling through them; though imaginative, they are empty. As the five meet nothing to interact with them until the finale the pace is adversely affected and what should be a constant feeling of menace is difficult to convey. Those hoping for a classic modern treatment of Lovecraftian themes should read instead Brian Lumley's magnificent The Burrowers Beneath, a book which combines great imagination with a powerful and driving plot. Here the reader will certainly find great imagination but nothing much else until the last thirty pages.


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