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In the Valley of the Kings by Terrence Holt

Pub Date:

 

In the Valley of the Kings
Terrence Holt

Norton, W. W. & Company
9-23-09
Hardcover/224 pages
ISBN: 978-0393071214
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". . . a subtle horror that thrills as it chills the blood."

Drawing from Greek mythology, Egyptian archaeology, science fiction and apocalyptic flights of fancy, Terrence Holt stories delve into the hearts and minds of what it means to be human. Among the eight stories of In the Valley of the Kings, Holt weaves the threads of loss and fear and takes us from dusty and arid Egypt to the rings of Saturn. No matter where the stories lead one thing is evident: humanity is a constant.

 

A viral plague born from a word begins the collected tales. It shows the inadequacy and mystery of newspapers and the words that bring people to the brink of destruction and set them free.

Charybdis subjects an outbound spaceship crew to the dangers and uncertainties of space, culminating in three men dealing with impending doom in three very different ways. In what could have been a maudlin tale, Holt makes each man’s choice not only logical but right.

I expected the story In the Valley of the Kings to be a straightforward archaeological mystery. Instead I was rewarded with obsession, immortality and the price of intelligence. Subtle horror infuses the story, thrilling as it chills.

In examples of science fiction elevated to a search for the soul and the meaning of what it is to be human, Aurora and Eurydike are sublime in their exploration of death and resurrection. The writing transcends genre labeling with poetic precision and a sense of the macabre that is as fascinating as it is mesmerizing.

Of all the stories, my favorite is Apocalypse. Although the reason for the end isn’t clearly stated, the sense of impending doom and the indomitable capacity for hope riveted me. The story begins slow, almost desultory, building to a climax that has nothing to do with catastrophe. Holt’s magical storytelling skills sounded a deep resonant chord that left me with tears and smiles.

These complex and masterful stories make use of repetitive phrases and swirling flights of lyrical prose that borders on poetry. They become windows into the psyche, exhibiting the basics of storytelling—to fascinate and enlighten.

 

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell