The Cambridge Geek

Fury from the Tomb - S. A. Sidor

You know how in films about mummies, there's usually the nerdy academic? He's the chap who stands off to one side, reading from one dusty tome or another, occasionally shouting out the names of various gods or "this can't be real!". Sometimes throws a handy gun or stick of dynamite to the rootin'-tootin' action hero, but never does much fighting himself?

This book is what you get when you make him the main character.

Romulus Hardy is an egyptologist. It's the 1800s, which means that what egyptologists mostly do is raid tombs in order to fill museums or private collections, picking up a very handsome finder's fee at the same time. Hardy has been contracted by Waterston to dig him up a mummy. Apparently all the other old billionaires have got personal archives of ancient artifacts and he's feeling left out. So off Hardy goes to Egypt.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first sarcophagus he happens to dig up contains a great unknowable undead evil, which, once birthed again on the world, immediately tries to take it over. Hardy now has to try and put this monstrosity, as well as its cadre of mummies and undead Mexican bandits back in its coffin. He's ably assisted by Evangeline, the daughter of old man Waterston, McTroy, a bounty hunter and Wu, a young boy who was working on the trains, and whose greatest asset are his Chinese Hopping Vampire parents.

The four of them head off into what effectively becomes a Western, with heavy Egyptian and slightly Lovecraftian overtones. All narrated by our Hardy.

That viewpoint gives it a very different feel from what you might expect if you're thinking Mummy (not the very original, but definitely not the more recent terrible remake). Hardy is dry (sometimes too dry), and has a sardonic approach to what should be horrifying moments. He finds the dashing McTroy unnecessarily coarse, and fails to quite understand how to talk to Evangeline, of whom he becomes rather fond.

That does result in this feeling heavy going at points, with his verbose style diverting from the action to some extent. That appealed to me enough as a fellow academic type that I could ignore some of the more tortured prose (regular readers may notice I'm not innocent of that sin myself).

But it's also sneaky, in that Hardy could be actually a much better hero than we think, in the line of Ciaphas Cain (Hero of the Imperium!) He is braver than he appears, and stands his ground against some impressively horrible foes, and pays quite a heavy price for doing so. (The book is framed as a much older Hardy's nostalgic remembrances, and these are some of the most touching parts of the narrative.)

Good enough that I'll certainly pick up the second, with some nice horror elements and a good grasp of cinematic scenes. These are easily built in the head, being described naturally enough that you can see the train plummeting off the bridge (or similar).

Score 4

Tagged: Book Horror The undead Novel Print