Lighthouse Keeper, The Paperback – 1 May 2012
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A TERRIFYING MYSTERY OF THE SEA
In December 1900, three lighthouse keepers vanished without
trace from the remote Scottish island of Eilean Mòr. An emergency relief crew
was sent to man the lighthouse. At the end of their month-long duty, they
resigned from their posts, and never spoke of what they had experienced on the
island. The mystery of Eilean Mòr has never been solved. Until now.
In the present, a group of environmental researchers arrives
on the island to observe the wildlife. While exploring the lighthouse, now
automated and deserted, one of the team discovers a manuscript written by one
of the relief keepers, a man named Alec Dalemore. As a sudden storm moves in,
cutting off their escape, the researchers come to realise that Dalemore wrote
the manuscript as a warning to all the lighthouse keepers who would come after
him. A warning of something on Eilean Mòr and in the surrounding ocean -
something ancient and powerful, and strange beyond imagining...
The Lighthouse Keeper is a supernatural tale based on the Flannan Isles
mystery, one of the greatest unsolved enigmas in maritime history. Blending
factual firsthand reports with speculative fiction, the novel takes the reader
on a journey to the edge of reality, where the greatest of human fears - the
fear of the unknown - holds dominion.
Top customer reviews
The description of the setting is apt and evocative. How could a ghost story set on a mysterious Scottish island fail to capture the imagination? Yet, for me, it failed badly.
Based on my experience with the previous books by Alan K. Baker and after the book description I expected a most entertaining and excellent written book that would drive me to the edge of my chair. I was pretty nosey to see how Alan K Baker would explain the vanish of the three lighthouse keepers and if he keeps his promise stated in the last sentence of the book description:
"[...], the novel takes the reader on a journey to the edge of reality, where the greatest of human fears - the fear of the unknown - holds dominion.
I read the 276 pages in two sessions which is not usual for me and should give you a first hint that I have been hooked by the story.
Within the first 21 pages Alan K. Tuner delivers the full set up for the story. After the introduction done by a telegram from 26 December 1900 the author moves forward to the year 1999 on Sunday 19 July, 4.30 PM, location Eilean Mòr (= big isle) part of the Flannan Isles. We meet a group of people - Jennifer Leigh, Donald Webb, Max Kaminsky, Nick Bowman - all working for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Rebecca Garratt who is in her first year of her MA in history.
Of course there are certain relationships in between the protagonists which I do not explain. Beside that there are only two more information (one vague and one precise) necessary to set the wheel in motion.
Some unusual things happen and Rebecca discovers a book:
The Testament of Alec Dalemore, Occasional Keeper
From that point on the story continues with two interwoven narrative threads. There are the events of the group itself and then they read together the discovered book which contains the story of Alec Dalemore. A story which starts on 5th of January 1901. Alan K. Baker mix these two threads perfectly together. It is fascinating to follow the group and Alec Dalemore and his two companion.
Of course the idea of a book within a book is not new but the execution is what counts. Alan K. Baker use The Testament of Alec Dalemore for different purposes. Without the book the story would not work!
The book is at the same time a revelation of the past, an anchor in the here and now, a book of despair and hope, a survival manual and the legacy of Alec Dalemore.
There is the group in 1999, a group of intelligent and well-educated people and on the other hand these men, shaped by nature and their jobs. You think modern people are superior when it comes to cope with the unknown, on the contrary. When it comes to the unknown the primal fear takes over and it gets worse when the differentiation between fiction, dream and reality disappears.
Alan K. Baker managed these double, triple, quadrouple rollercoaster of emotion in a gripping way. But it is not the description of the emotion alone. The author has a talent to describe nature (water, storms, sky) in a way that you hear voices in your head, the wind runs through your hair and you have to turn around because you felt someone breathing in your back.
Let me give you an example:
"But that night, it was easy to believe that humanity was gone from the earth and that we three were the last of a race and a civilisation that was no more, cast to oblivion by a storm that covered the entire world with destruction." [page 85]
Keep in mind where Eilean Mòr is located. This small island exposed to the forces of nature. And that is similar to all people on the island in 1900, 1901 and 1999. But they have to cope with more - with the unknown, faith, belief, trust, loneliness, primal fears and group dynamics processes.
There is a high risc that you lose your mind when the that which must not, can not be, does not work.
To lose control is as gruesome as to run out of explanantions. You will beseech answers like a picture of misery.
Don't try to explain your doubts or unknown vision with
"[...] the tiny things that float within one's eyes, and which can be seen drifting across the field of vision on occasion." [page 235]
I'm pretty sure I did not deliver you any hint how Alan K. Baker explain the 1900 Flannan Isles mystery. I'm sure not everbody will like his explanation but it fits perfectly to his promise in the book description.
Anyway I must tell you the very last sentence of the story which tell you all or nothing:
"The kitchen door opens."
I'm glad that I read The Lighthouse Keeper. Despite it is an excellent read I found a quote which shows the relation between books and lighthouses:
"Reading is a great pastime amongst Lightkeepers, [...] most take great comfort from losing themselves in the worlds to be found within the pages of a book" [page 86]
I promise you that you easily can lose yourself on Eilean Mòr. The border between your reality and the fiction of the book, the fiction and reality within the book and finally the fiction and reality in the book within the book is fragile.
This book is like a lighthouse. There are moments where you do not need the light because everything seems to be obvious and clear (day time) and then you are suddenly caught in the dark where fear rises,
doubts lead to despair and the light gives you a short insight blurred by the afterglow.
The cover fits pertfectly to the story. The black and whit and grey delivers hope, fear, myst and the unknown depths.
The Lighthouse Keeper - buckle up for a timeless, mesmerizing, disturbing, rollercoaster ride to the edge of human mind on an unspoilt island.
Or in other words:
The Lighthouse Keeper - that which must not, can (not) be !!
I was not disapointed.
In fact, I ws so gripped by the unfolding narrative that I read the whole book in a single sitting. The two time frames in the book are woven together in a seamless manner with well defined characters and a palpable sense of menace pervading the whole work.
The stroyline is superb. It had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up and left me wanting to read deep into the night.
I look forward to reading more of Mr Bakers books.
Buy it and read it at night for additional atmosphere!
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