Joachim Boaz mentioned Hilbert Schenck the other day over on Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations, so I thought I’d post this.
Raw Feed (1993): Chronosequence, Hilbert Schenck, 1988.
This was the first Schenck [and only] I’ve read and an original, moving, fast moving tale.
The blurbs calling this a Lovecraftian tale are only partly right. There is delving into historical documents like journals and diaries and newspapers, but, whereas in a Lovecraft tale death and/or insanity follow such pursuits, here the result is, for protagonist Eve Pennington, much more benign and transcendental – though still deadly for her.
Schenck has a knack for creating characters. I not only liked Eve Pennington, but my favorite was old would-be spy Ed C. Berry who helps Pennington.
Even the details of Pennington’s incest with her sister are handled naturally, realistically, and, though it’s normally an act I’d find repugnant and/or alien, I accepted it as a crucial, important event in her life, an experience she cherished.
On the down side, the evil government conspiracy was a bit hackneyed and predictable. I’m not sure Schenck even wanted to disguise biologist Marta Hoerner’s role as an evil government agent, but I still cheered when the alien wasted her.
I agree with Pennington and her lover Ian McPherson that the aliens’ power to control minds, bodies, and perceptions is to awesome too trust to government.
But the very best part of the book – a wonderful, clever, original and very good part it is – is the alien and the mystery around it, a lonely, shipwrecked alien on Muskeget Island, an alien that just wants to die. But to do that he must have human help, human aid, to override his survival programming. He must wait for a hurricane to threaten his hideaway on Muskeget, lure a human host to come nearby so the alien can put its personality into the host’s body and be destroyed with the host.
To ensure the host stays, the alien replays intimate (in every sense of the word) sexual experiences of certain women (it finds women more receptive to its powers) to keep them while death closes in. It is by a indirect series of manipulations of people near the Island that Pennington is lured there to relive an incestuous incident with her beloved and dead sister. As the hurricane closes in, time slows and Pennington relives her experience with her sister and also the special, very detailed memories of others who have been to the island.
It’s a special idea, an original, moving one: an alien that wants to die (and that learns despair on Earth) and enlists the lives and memories of select humans to do so.