“I don't know, Sheriff,” Gordon said. “I
just don't know. I feel as if we were living through a kind of
nightmare and that we're not going to escape from it the easy way—simply
by waking up.”
-- Belmont Books (B50-757) PBO, c.1967, p.84
This novel has little to recommend it to a modern reader.
Certainly not its prosaic dialogue from the mouths of whoishe?
characters. Plotwise, it starts off like a Christie Mystery: you
know, halfadozen people show up to a remote, seaside cliff cottage
in Maine for the summer and some psychological games, then, onebyone,
get broiled out like lobster on tonight's menu. Halfway through,
it turns to the Lovecraftian run-screaming device bogging over
scary sand dunes and ending up in the Mad Scientist's underground
laboratory fighting off “a color that is actually alive and could
destroy our minds”,
or a “non-Euclidean shape so many-angled and prism-dazzling that
we could not look at it for long and remain sane” (p.99). We're not
really sure, you see, because it's fuckin' invisible! What we do
know is that it's wetbacking through a portal inadvertently opened
by a brilliant-but-misunderstood, world-famous psychologist-guru,
and that it's “an alien encroachment from beyond the stars or some
unimaginable dimension of space-time” (p.154). Any other characters—like
The Hero, The Heroine, The Sheriff, The-Little-Boy-on-the-Beach-with-Insight—I
can't discuss because I can't remember them. And I finished the book
a coupla hours ago.
Long must have realized he had sum explanin' to do, because
there's an inordinate amount of time spent lecturing, which ends
up about as believable as the alien “anguish beyond our capacity
to imagine” (p.60).
Essentially, he sleight-hands the Jungian collective consciousness
notion of shared images into a defense mechanism to protect us from
the real horror behind the universal mask thrown up by our subconscious.
In the decade of Bush and Cheney, this is about as reassuring
as Weapons of Mass Destruction found in Iraq. Besides Jung, Long
uses Wilhelm Reich and H.P. Lovecraft to add credibility and authentication.
More importantly, however, in the socio-political arena,
is the subtextual warning against what happens when you attempt
to expand your consciousness beyond everyday, tow-the-line, goosestepping
existence. The Mad Scientist wants to try “every consciousness-expanding
. . . hallucination-creating technique” (p.38) incorporating Yoga,
magical incantations, and, yes, LSD. Remember kiddies, it's 1967.
His patients start to see “little waltzing death heads in the depths
of his eyes” (p.75).
Do I need to hammer my sickle any further? If you think so, follow
this link to
That Long would consider HPL a maven as well as a mentor
is understandable. When Lovecraft read his early story published
in an amateur press, “The
Eye Above The Mantel” in 1921, he wrote to Frank in praise, thus
starting a close and lifelong friendship. Long probably deserves
a deeper read than just this one, obscure novel; although I have
read “The Hounds of Tindalos” (c.1929) and was not particularly impressed.
He was, however, a prolific writer during a very pivotal era in Fantasist
Literature. He broke his teeth with Weird Tales and Arkham House,
then successfully transformed his rather caliginous fiction to the
rigors of Campbell's Astounding and also Unknown 1930s
pulp magazines. In the 1950s, Long pulled off another venue jump
into the paperback original novel market, of which Journey into
Darkness fits into the tail of that era. Well respected by
his peers, he edited Fantasy & SciFi mags during the 1960s, wrote
poetry, and even scripted some comicbooks for EC. After seven decades
of writing and at the age of 93, he went to the box in 1994.