The Perseids and Other Stories

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Sometimes our surrender is complete, sometimes it shifts to defiance; but the sense always accrues that we inhabit a flimsy film of ordinariness atop an immense chthonic gulf of weirdness. Lovecraftian indeed; but Wilson is a much better and more original writer than Lovecraft, and he easily transcends the horrific facility of his model. Wilson's tales are intensely logical constructions. Each carefully lays down a groundwork of ideas, many of them superficially of some scientific respectability; these simmer away in the protagonist's and the reader's mind until they combine in a visionary denouement invariably contradictory of mundane appearances.

But those mundane appearances are always well drawn: Wilson also sets out the everyday lives of his characters with sympathetic precision, so that their personal crises -- psychiatric, romantic, social, ideological, economic -- feed into their stories' climaxes as appropriately and inevitably as any supernatural element. There is perhaps a component of classical tragedy here: when transformation or alienation befalls, the subject's personality has clearly invited it. Thus The Perseids ' ostensibly bewildering variety of occult hypotheses: each character builds his or her own Heaven or Hell, and others' beliefs be damned.

For the others' beliefs are of some relevance: the stories in The Perseids are linked.

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A character from one may easily figure in another, and most have some acquaintance with an antiquarian bookshop called "Finders," whose owner, Oscar Ziegler, is in some fashion immortal, and whose stock can include some very odd items indeed. In "The Fields of Abraham," Ziegler is the chess partner of a young immigrant prior to World War I, and diabolical manoeuvrings on the board are the symbolic core of another, oddly similar but very much deeper, variety of exchange. Ziegler or is it Ziegler? And Ziegler's eventual death provides another character, the aging hippie Deirdre Frank, with an unexpected inheritance, Finders itself; in "Pearl Baby," the bookshop consequently plays host to a bizarre reconciliation of the biological and mineral domains.

Deirdre had earlier tried to moderate Ziegler's impact on Bill Keller in "Divided By Infinity," and was also protective towards those who in "The Inner Inner City" had been enticed by a demonic challenge again evocative of chess to invent their own religions Other episodes are more isolated, with Finders a subliminal linking thread; but they are all of a piece.

Perseids and Other Stories

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