Friday, November 22, 2013
"Where All Things Perish" by Tanith Lee
Hawkins is executed for murder, and the people of Steepleford take pains to avoid his vacant house. Decades later, at the end of the 19th century, the house becomes the epicenter of a strange plague which causes the crops and trees of the area to wither and many of the populace to become deathly ill.
Lee’s prose style is very good, and the story is a pleasure to read. The story unfolds not in a linear fashion, but like a mystery, in bits and pieces, as a first person narrator describes his discoveries some years after the fact. The story is perhaps very pessimistic, pointing out human hypocrisy with its numerous instances of characters finding the Christian sect, and Amber, who are devoted to loving all mankind and seek only to help others, repellant. There is also a central irony to the story: the plague that emanates from the Hawkins house is halted by a character whom we are led to believe is a soulless, Satanic creature, utterly criminal and inhumanly evil. Thus “Where All Things Perish” can be seen as a story of a struggle between good and evil, but a topsy turvy one in which the mass of the people rise up against the good and benefit from the presence of the evil. A strange and memorable piece of work.