“The Object of Worship”
“The Ethical Treatment of Meat”
“Hochelaga and Sons”
“The Sea, at Bari”
“The Darkness at the Heart of the World “
“A Place Where Nothing Ever Happens”
“A Visit to the Optometrist”
“Roman Predator’s Chimeric Odyssey”
“Destroyer of Worlds”
“This Is the Ice Age
Introduction by James Morrow
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Claude Lalumière’s collection Objects of Worship includes a dozen short stories, many of which have evocative titles. Ten of the stories were previously published between 2002 and 2008, but two of the stories, ”The Darkness at the Heart of the World” and “Roman Predator’s Chimeric Odyssey,” appear in this collection for the first time.
Although the stories in the collection demonstrate a breadth of topics, from end of the world stories like the ice-encrusted earth in “This is the Ice Age” to the comic book pastiche of “Spiderkid,” nearly all of the stories have a stylistic similarity which shows the influence on Lalumière of the Weird-school of writing created by H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Seabury Quinn, and other authors writing for Farnsworth Wright in the 1920s and 30s. Two of the stories included, “The Ethical Treatment of Meat” and “A Visit to the Optometrist” are linked tales which allow Lalumière to look at zombie culture from a variety of points of view as well as the treatment of animals and the acceptance of the other.
Despite a commonality of style, the two stories original to the collection are quite different from each other. One a quest in an ancient culture, the other occurring in a post-apocalyptic world.
”The Darkness at the Heart of the World” relates the story of Coro’s quest to find a place for himself in the world. Set in a primordial culture, Coro suffers from a defective leg. Despite his mother’s attempts to heal him in the Godpool, his leg refuses to heal, leaving Coro to decide to go on a quest to join the mystical flying Shifpan-Shap, who live in the fabled city of Shifpan-Ur. Coro’s solo journey is reminiscent in many ways of the ancient quest undertaken by Gilgamesh, although when Coro eventually does manage to reach Shifpan-Ur, he finds himself facing other obstacles, not all of which are external. Even while Coro’s offers the sensation of Gilgamesh’s own quest, the world through which he journeys has the eldritch quality of a Lovecraftian nightmarescape, as do many of the stories in Lalumière’s collection.
While ”The Darkness at the Heart of the World” is set in a world that offers up the distant and forgotten past, the other new tale in Objects of Worship, “Roman Predator’s Chimeric Odyssey,” is set in a post-apocalyptic world in which genetically modified lycanthropes hunt through the wastes of a reclaimed Montreal. Lalumière keeps his focus on Roman Predator, the alpha wolf of the pack, but rather than looking at the manner in which he hunts the local prey, Lalumière examines how Roman Predator manages to maintain his ascendency even as he ages and younger wolves come to challenge him. Despite the futuristic period of “Roman Predator’s Chimeric Odyssey,” it shares a primordial feel with “The Darkness at the Heart of the World,” making these two new stories in Objects of Worship an interesting, if mismatched, diptych.
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