SELECT * FROM uv_BookReviewRollup WHERE recordnum = 1189 Cthulhu Australis, Volume One, by David Conyers Book Review |

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Cthulhu Australis, Volume One, by David Conyers
Genre: Horror Anthology
Publisher: Rainfall Books
Published: 2007
Review Posted: 6/7/2008
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

Cthulhu Australis, Volume One, by David Conyers

Book Review by Jeff Edwards

Have you read this book?

Somebody should warn the South Australian Tourism Commission about native son David Conyers and the subversive chapbooks he's releasing through a U.K. publisher. In harsh contrast to the commission's enticements of "serene landscapes, lively villages, and lush farmlands," Citizen Conyers depicts a far less appealing place in Cthulhu Australis, Volume One: a land of diseased trees, shuttered stone houses, and overgrown cemeteries. It's enough to ruin the tourist trade.

The short collection begins with "From the Sick Trees," in which a young woman named Melanie suffers from recurring nightmares of an unseen monster. As the sun rises, though, Mel's troubles don't fade away; they just change shape. Each day finds her working long hours at a "greasy pizza restaurant," enduring frequent phone calls from her nagging mother and fending off the sexual advances of her selfish boyfriend. According to Mel's psychologist, the creature in her dreams is only a "projection," but when Mel stumbles upon the site of a traumatic childhood incident, she uncovers disturbing links between her nightmares and reality. A blend of modern angst and supernatural terror, the tale is ripe for analysis: Is the monster a manifestation of Mel's suppressed rage, or is a "tormented ghost" really using Mel as a medium to hunt and kill?

Next, libido wilts and horror grows in "Five Sisters." Brian, an American backpacking through Australia, can't believe his luck: He's met a girl who promises to fulfill his every fantasy if he'll follow her to an isolated spot in the hills and submit himself to one little test. But the price of this rendezvous turns out to be higher than Brian could have imagined. Although it's the slightest story in the book, "Five Sisters" is layered with meaning and can be read either as a straightforward Mythos tale or a cautionary allegory about the dangers of reckless behavior and sexually transmitted diseases.

For the collection's finale, Conyers dispenses with symbolism and delivers a plot-driven thriller called "Solvent Hunger." In the story, Constable Kelly Brookes tracks a ritualistic serial killer on the "far side of Australia." Despite the city detectives who dismiss her from the crime scene and the Aboriginal youths who order her not to interfere, Brookes is determined to solve the case. She soon regrets her tenacity. Conyers fills the piece with gritty details, dropping us into the middle of the desert where an approaching vehicle is announced by its dust trail "dirtying the horizon," and characters drip with sweat moments after leaving the comfort of air conditioning. Later, the author skillfully builds dread by having Brookes smell "an odour vaguely similar to sickly-sweet scents that often brewed in public rubbish dumps" before she sees the ravenous monster, "that nightmarish creature, that festering shambler."

Within the chapbook, David Conyers notes the inherent fearlessness of most Australians, and apparently he's on a mission to undermine that fortitude by reintroducing fear to his countrymen. Conyers' efforts continue in "Cthulhu Australis, Volume Two," now available from Rainfall Books.
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