Thursday, 23 May 2013


Philip Purser-Hallard Horizon (2013)

Horizon transposes the mysterious luchador Señor 105 and two of his characteristically peculiar companions to the American south-west, the town of Horizon, Nevada for a veritable tequila trifle of a story which retains a wonderful consistency despite the conflicting ingredients of Roswell mythology, mysterious agents whom I'd say seem reminiscent of Sapphire & Steel had I ever actually seen Sapphire & Steel, and an alternate timeline in which dynastic Egypt not only never fell but teamed up with the Vikings. It's an absolute narrative dog's dinner nevertheless served with the confidence of one of those peculiar Heston Blumenthal recipes involving potassium and cashew nuts. This is the sort of thing which I would suggest is difficult to get right - one careless sentence and it ends up reading like weird for weird's sake, or worse - that brand of kitsch which doesn't seem to allow for the possibility of an Aztec Mummy movie appreciated without some degree of sneering.

Philip Purser-Hallard not only gets the balance right, but does it with wit and a confident, uncluttered flow by which even the most ludicrous twists unfold at their own pace without so much as a jarred concept in sight. It actually reminds me a little of what Douglas Adams did but for the fact that it doesn't feel quite so laboured, and nor does it continually dig you in the ribs to see if you spotted the amusing remark. In brief, it's an absolute delight, and particularly with passages of this kind:

'These men were once part of my ancestor's personal guard,' the boy-king continued. 'Men whose genes had been changed gradually into something far more than merely human.' The first mummy, both of its arms now severed, was butting its head crazily into Señor 105's stomach. 'Soldiers whose battle-rage is so overpowering, so all-encompassing, that once evoked it can never be ended. Not death, nor even removal of the major organs, swaddling and embalming in oils can slow them down.'

That, Señor 105 thought to himself as he ducked between the outstretched arms of two more mummies, was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. He qualified this almost immediately, swiping the head of another bandaged berserker from its shoulders, as he remembered some of the other things he had heard. Still, he considered, stamping down on a hand whose bony fingers were scrabbling at his leg, if he had to compile a mental list of the most ridiculous things he had heard, this would surely have to come in the top twenty. Or, no - he parried two axe-swipes in quick succession, breaking the haft of one axe with the impact - let us say the top fifty, at the outside. Discounting the things he had been told in extraterrestrial languages, or by whales.

Above all, Horizon reads very much like something the author enjoyed writing, and the obvious pleasure taken in passages such as the above is infectious. This one gets my vote for the best Señor 105 tale to date, and you can download it here.

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