Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Lair of the White Worm: Review
Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker doesn't exactly live up to its blurb: In a tale of ancient evil, Bram Stoker creates a world of lurking horrors and bizarre denizens: a demented mesmerist, hellbent on mentally crushing the girl he loves' a gigantic kite raised to rid the land of an unnatural infestation of birds, and which receives strange commands along its string; and all the while, the great white worm slithers below, seeking its next victim...
I picked this one up in my search for a book with "white" in the title to help me complete my Color Coded Reading Challenge. White was looking to be a difficult color. The first book I picked out, Eight White Nights, I just could not finish because it was going nowhere fast. Lair looked to be going the same way. It's an interesting idea...ancient evil in the form of a great white worm (in the old sense--a snake/serpent or dragon) which can take on human form and lure men and women to their doom. Add in one heir to a local estate who is slowly going mad and for whateve reason wanting to control the girl he "loves" with hypnotism--to what purpose, we don't know. There is also a mysterious gathering of birds that creates havoc in the region until a giant hawk-shaped kite is flown to scare them. Could be a good story. But from the moment Adam Salton comes home to England to meet a great-uncle he never knew he had and gets involved with these local inhabitants, it's a long-haul to anything creepy or vaguely interesting happening. Salton takes long walks in the countryside. He talks with his uncle's elderly friend a lot. There's A LOT of talking. We have disjointed episodes where Adam is talking with his uncle's friend and then suddenly is out on walk and then just as suddenly back in the house to talk again.
I am glad I finished this one, though (and not just because it finishes off the challenge). The ending was good enough to make the read worthwhile. One might say a very explosive finale (pun intended). A couple of caveats for those who may be considering the book: It is not all that creepy, except, perhaps, in the final scenes. If you're looking for horror along the lines of Dracula, I don't personally think it matches up. Also, if you read an unedited copy, you're going to find the N-word sprinkled all over the place. In a very derogatory manner. Of course, it reflects the times--but you should be prepared. My version--from the library--had been "fixed." My main personal quibble with the story is that you have the hypnotist doing mental/psychic battle with Lilla, the girl he supposedly loves. This goes on in the first third of the book. Lilla is supported by her cousin Mimi. But then, all of a sudden, Mimi marries Adam--supposedly to make her safe from the white worm and we leave Lilla abandoned. Literally. We don't hear of her again until the final 20 pages of the book. After being so concerned about her cousin--a concern her husband shared up to this point, she suddenly leaves her alone. Did she think the hypnotist would just quit stopping by? I did not get that all.
I can't honestly say that this is an all-time favorite. I don't think I'll ever read it again. It had the makings of a really good story. Rumors are that Stoker was going a bit mad himself when he was writing this....I wouldn't be surprised. That certainly may explain the disjointed scenes. Two and a half stars out of five.