Brian Lumley is, of course, best known for his hovels and stories in the Cthulhu Mythos tradition. However, his work encompasses other themes quite often; Khai of Ancient Khem (Berkley, 1981) explored the world of the ancient Near East in what was essentially a straight adventure story. Lumley has also shown himself adept at producing a convincing blend of science-fiction and Horror, as in his memorable short story "In the Glow-Zone", to name only one.
Psychomech is another tale which mixes horror with a plot more firmly rooted in science- fiction; and also, here, in the thriller or novel of intrigue. Psychomech has a fast-paced style, and its brisk, terse narrative which, although extending over 351 pages, never fails to hold the reader's attention.
There is a decidedly un-Lovecraftian concern in the novel's plot with-astrology, ESP, reincarnation and the untapped powers of the human mind. Psychomech is a machine which allows its user to face and conquer his worst nightmares by meeting them on a different plane of existence. But it also has hidden capabilities which are to have a shocking effect on the main protagonist, Richard Garrison.
Garrison is a young soldier, accidentally blinded in an explosion, which meets wealthy industrialist Thomas Schroeder and his formidable partner, the ex-SS officer Koenig. The story revolves around the intricately intertwined destinies of these characters. and of several others -Hans Maas. the Nazi war criminal who invented psychomech; Wyatt, the treacherous womanizing opportunist who attempts to seize control of the Machine; Vicki, Garrison's blind lover; and Terri, whose life is also changed when she becomes part of Garrison's world. There is the clairvoyant and astrologer Adam Schenk. who maps out a cryptic set of predictions concerning the fate of Garrison and his companions. It is the development of this pattern of predictions which keeps the action going. for the predictions also correspond to some strange dreams that Garrison experiences exactly how the pieces of the puzzle fit together is not revealed until the very end. The main action is set against a panorama of events involving I.R.A. guerillas. one of whom has a special vendetta against KoeT? and the Jewish-led manhunt for ex-Nazi Maas. The main settings are
Wyatt's Sussex house, which contains the psychomech installation, and Schroeder's retreat in Germany, a complex of buildings. including a laboratory for testing paranormal skills. and a library filled with books on the occult. But the action also takes the c reader as far afield as Cyprus, Italy, the Swiss Alps, and even - briefly -Australia.
Also integral to the plot is a large black dog, especially trained to be fiercely and utterly loyal to Garrison. And while there is physical violence in the book, the most horrifying event, are those which occur in the weird dream state which psychomech induces; an early experimental patient (or victim) of the Machim, fails to survive the experience. Garrison's experience with " psychomech proves almost as traumatic, but ends up having a far different effect... While the story is complete in itself, the ending is open for further developments in the other two novels which complete the trilogy.
While the explanations of the paranormal phenomena in the book are not altogether convincing, Psychomech~ is a good read with enough elements of love, desperate conflict and mystery to appeal to a wide audience. For those who like their horror to be eldritch, ancient and thoroughly evil, this book may be unsatisfying. But the book is not pretending to be a traditional horror story -rather, it's an exciting and fantastic adventure with moments of grue thrown in for good measure. Recommended for those who enjoy both the unknown horrors external to human nature, and those which lie within ...