If I had to label Gary Fry’s new novel from Dark Fuse, I’d call it a psychoanalytical horror. That’s because Conjure House embraces big philosophical and psychological ideas that blend together with ancient Lovecraftian motifs. The novel delves deep into theories of psyche and symbolism that create everything in our lives, even the unseen things. When the protagonist Anthony loses his younger brother Simon while playing out with his friends their lives and the balance of their village is forever changed. Anthony and his friends all leave at the first opportunity. Each develops keen interests in art, or in the case of Anthony science, yet all deal with the dark elements of their chosen discipline. If indeed they did have any choice at all. As the years fade the village of Deepvale becomes an anti-temple to the past. The Conjure House is the altar where the sacrifice of sanity and careers must be played out.
Though I can easily understand people likening this book to King’s ‘IT’ due to the reflected elements; younger brother goes missing, group of friends gather in their small childhood town to defeat the monster etc. I believe the comparison would be doing the book and Fry a huge disservice. Conjure House is a cosmic horror full of Cthulhu creepiness and meaty themes, a mythic tale in its own right that hypothesises about the idealism of time and existence.
These themes were a refreshing read but not without their own problems. It occasionally felt like driving on the M25 on a bank holiday weekend in the middle of the book; stop starting and feeling as though you’ve passed the same signposts several times. These are minor points when compared to the writing style and storytelling skill Fry displays here. However I think these problems are due to the ideas needing more room to breathe in a longer version of the novel, or paradoxically characters being cut to make it a tighter read. I would have preferred to discover more about Suman the Conjurer rather than read about the lives of Anthony’s friends and their reunion in the middle section of the novel. That’s the point where the book began to loosen its grip.
The main story of Anthony, his missing brother Simon and how the memory of the fateful night had dangled over him and the village on a horse hair is brilliantly done. It’s in this character creation and symbolic interplay that Fry shows his talent best. Not to mention the explosive and magical ending that kept me turning the page and wondering what could possibly happen next. The main body of the book had echoes of Ramsey Campbell while the finale drilled straight to the source of Lovecraft himself.
The flickering history of Deepvale that appears like ghosts is a clever technique to connect the dark magic and abductions of the past with the present battle of evil. Fry has a knack of making the reader feel uneasy, never knowing quite what is happening or in fact when it is happening. This charge of the past toward the future and the end of time is a thrilling journey. It’s in this second part of the novel that we begin to understand the clues dropped by the author as we follow the breadcrumbs along a terrifying path.
Gary Fry asks the reader to consider a transcendent plane between science and art. It’s a place where time, magic and the cosmos itself can be manipulated by mankind. All these aspects are weaved with invisible stitching throughout the book. Once you buy into this theory, and Fry offers enough esoteric guide ropes to help you do that, then it’s a great fantasy read.
Conjure House is the kind of book that echoes in your mind for days after finishing. It’s intelligent, thought provoking and damn scary.