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The Wanderer in Unknown Realms is a well written and eerie short story. The plot spins around the search for a missing book collector, Lionel Maulding, and the mystery surrounding a rare 'Atlas' for which it appears he paid a huge sum of money. Into the mix arrives the character of Soter who has been hired to investigate the matter. Once Soter arrives at the crumbling, Gothic, Bromdrum Hall with it's seemingly 'ghostly' happenings the plot opens up into the world of alchemy, the frantic world of occult book collecting and ritual. I'm not going any deeper into the plot except to say the background of World War 1 with it's trenches full of mud and blood is beautifully worked and an ideal stage for this mystery to be set against. I'll also have to give great credit to John Connolly for his fantastic characters who are a mix of the likeable and the 'really not'.

Connolly has managed to produce a dark, extremely surreal, story which spins the reader from the impact of the Great War up into the realms of Alistair Crowley, Magick and the, possible, rebirth of someone not at all pleasant!. Plenty of brooding atmosphere and a slow building tension which is superbly done when you consider this is a short story. I'm trying so hard not to give spoilers.

My only word of caution; don't expect Charlie Parker or a host of gun slinging, demonic, anti-heroes. The Wanderer isn't a departure from what Connolly does best but it's written in a different style. He's put a complete spin on his usual themes and I was reminded of H.P. Lovecraft, travel through different realms, which I enjoyed. There's some gore and moderate violence with slight horror elements which are unlikely to shock but; The Wanderer in Unknown Realms is a decent short story for any fan of 'weird fiction'.
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on 25 August 2014
not bad but not his best
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on 2 June 2013
The Wanderer in Unknown Realms is John Connolly's much publicised new Kindle Single, a horror story of novella length that should really be a novel. He's a brilliant writer, so I wasn't surprised to be engaged with a world of Dickensian characters (the lawyer Quayle, the sinister booksellers Dunwidge and Daughter) all caught up in a spine tingling plot. Soter - a world war one veteran, shell-shocked and bereaved, works as a private detective and takes on the case of missing Lionel Maulding, an elderly country gentlemen with a taste for antiquarian books.

Soters search takes him into the world of arcana and rare occult books. Soon he begins to experience the occult world for himself and has moments when he doubts his sanity. Lionel Maulding had been on the trail of a book so rare, so dangerous, that it has eluded generations of occult specialists. The Atlas of Unknown Realms has the power to change the space time continuum and re-write the nature of reality. Soter soon has reason to fear that the book has been found and opened when time begins to bend around him and horrific creatures materialise out of the darkness.

At this point I was really gripped. I wanted to know what had happened to Lionel Maulding and how the world was going to be saved - hopefully by Soter. But the novella's ending is a complete let-down and unfortunately ruined the whole for me. Maybe others will disagree. I'm not going to do a spoiler - but I think it was a cop-out!

There are wonderful, creepy illustrations by Emily Hall that make the production of this book a class act.
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VINE VOICEon 27 August 2013
Connolly is an excellent writer, his Charlie Parker series successfully melds Chandleresque detective fiction with supernatural horror.

This fantastic little short story is set in the 20's featuring an ex-soldier dealing with PTSD investigating the disappearance of an old gentleman.

It moves along at great pace, Connolly's strengths being character driven plot and excellent prose really set the scene despite things going 'weird' as the tale progresses.

Some fans of Connolly may not necessarily like the twists and turns of the plot, his usual work seems more 'grounded' and 'real' (despite the subject matter), however I thought this was a great and immensely readable short-story.

One gripe on here, is the seeming abruptness of the end. I can understand why others would like more confrontation and definite resolution. I am torn on this. I am not certain there would have been a conclusion that would fit the story. Additionally, it is very much written in the style of Victorian/Edwardian 'weird' fiction, with endings potentially vague and abrupt and the heroes not necessarily triumphing. Susan Hill's ghost stories are always written in a similar vein (irrespective of their contemporary/historical setting).

This aside I think it is an excellent story, well written and without a Parker novel out this year, I hope there will be more short stories featuring various characters to fill the gap.
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on 26 May 2013
Loved it. Only downside was that it wasn't a full novel. Can't wait for his next books. I'm surprised there's not more reviews on here
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on 27 August 2013
Let me say from the off that I'm glad the gore was restrained in this (there is some gore, but thankfully we don't get loving descriptions of steaming heaps of viscera and so forth).

It's set in traditional ghost story territory: after the First World War, veteran is asked to investigate odd disappearance with occult overtones. A mix of Lovecraftian 'end of the world' scenario (if the Old Ones succeeded in breaking through) and M. R. James gentleman scholar gets mixed up in black magic.

Unfortunately, it doesn't quite live up to what it's trying to do. The ending is suitably bleak and really the story ends where it needs to end, but the deepening sense of doom, of subtly wrong environment cluing us and the narrator in that all is not as it should be, the question left hanging as to whether what the narrator experiences is reality or if he's a shell-shocked veteran of war hallucinating - some of these touches, when they work, are dead-on at creating the mood but the problem is that it's not a consistent tone: we more or less know that matters are going to end badly so there's never any real tension in the story - it's neither a tale of "This is how the apocalypse began" where we know from the outset that the world has changed and this is the last testament of a doomed witness or the traditional occult-detection tale of "My acquaintance Chalmers, whom I had not seen for years, sent me a message out of the blue begging for aid" where we have no idea what is in store from the beginnings of what seems a conventional 'missing person' investigation.

It's a good little story, but not a classic - a pity, since I appreciate that John Connolly is working in the vein of the old-fashioned ghost story, where nuances of mood are the method used to ratchet up the tension, not hacking and slashing.
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on 20 March 2014
John Connolly’s latest piece of longer fiction continues his previous adventures into the horror realm with a full blooded novella firmly in the weird fiction tradition.

We follow the trials of Soter, a first world war veteran as he tries to make some money by investigating the disappearance of Lionel Maulding. The quest soon takes him into the occult book world and the search for a fabled and feared missing tome.

That brief plot synopsis might lead you to believe that this novella has little new and in terms of the tropes you might be correct but what makes the book stand out is the strength of the writing.

Connolly builds on the tragedy of the great war, the suffering and abuse of the veterans, the overriding sense of evil pervading the world to build a fascinating and exciting, yet deep and literary tale, “It was the war to end worlds, to end this world….the world was made ready for the book, and the book was ready for the world.”

The writing is rich and vivid but with an eerie edginess reminiscent of Machen, James (M.R) or the ghost stories of Dickens. Fans of recent Weird fiction will also see similarities to the works of Thomas Ligotti and Mark Samuels and if that sounds like high praise it’s meant to be.

It has to be said that the ending may not be to everyone's taste, you could argue that a lengthier ending would have led the book into novel territory (and I wouldn't have objected to more) but I feel the rather sudden stop to proceedings actually works well.
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on 26 June 2013
I enjoyed this book for three quarters of the way through. The plot was intriguing and the writing was atmospheric with some dry observations.

The last quarter, however, really let the book down. I had the strong impression that Connolly had written himself into a corner and didn't know how to conclude the story. The last quarter seemed hastily written, lacking the thoughtfulness of what preceded. Like some other reviewers, I feel that the ending was a cop out which offered no meaningful resolution to the story. As a result, I was left feeling disappointed and unsatisfied. I never did find out what happened to Lionel Maulding.

This short story has some promising material and perhaps it would have benefited from being treated as a full length book. I also felt that the initial references to occult works had been quite well researched (e.g. alchemy; the Golden Dawn; A.E Waite), but the book finished on a rather clichéd note portraying all occult literature as inherently evil.
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on 1 March 2014
Set sometime after World War I, Lionel Maulding, a rare book collector has gone missing. Former soldier Soter is tasked with finding him, leading to some exceedingly grim discoveries. It's one of the scariest books I've ever read. While some of the events in it are truly horrible and shudder-making, I was left with a nagging doubt as to whether Soter was having a nervous breakdown or everything was actually true. Connolly's talent for creating understated yet terrifying stories is pretty much second to none and even a couple of weeks after finishing this particular story, I had a sense of residual creeping unease. Other reviewers have criticised the ending but I thought it worked really well.
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on 10 April 2014
I quite enjoyed this, although the style of writing is deliberately 'old fashioned'....a bit like Dennis Wheatley or H.P. Lovecraft...
If you like either of these you'll enjoy this well enough..
I read it about 6 months ago, and to be honest I remember enjoying it at the time but it's not a story that is likely to stick in the memory, good to pass a few hours...( It's fairly short ) but not one that I would highly recommend....
In fact if you are looking at this because you are a fan of the Charlie Parker series of novels, don't....It's nothing at all like those novels ( which are excellent ), but it's worth a read.....Not great, but just ok....
Cheers,
Bob
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