Ancient Images by Ramsey Campbell

This book had SO much potential, it could quite literally have had me at “Hello.” The setup revolving around the lost Karloff/Lugosi film is irresistible. The atmosphere is so thick it’s practically a character, not unlike the first 4 chapters of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The rest… is mind-numbing. My brain actually kept shutting itself off in self-defense, that’s how bad it got.

Ramsey Campbell is a name I’ve heard bandied about for years as one of the best of the best when it comes to horror fiction. This is my first book from him, and if his writing style, characters, and plot resolution are anything to judge by in this book, this will be my last Ramsey Campbell novel. Like with the much-vaunted Stephen King, I’m left scratching my head at just what everyone else sees in this guy’s work. Atmosphere and plot idea can only get you so far. The rest has to actually be enjoyable too.

Full disclosure: my reading list lately has consisted of new Star Wars books, Ian Fleming’s James Bond, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, so this particular book couldn’t possibly live up to the level of solid plotting, mystery, intrigue, action, solid characterization, and fun of these other stories. And to be fair, this book wasn’t meant to be an action book. It just suffered from being in the midst of such company. Honestly though, as good as the idea behind this book is, I’d have much rather have had the mythical lost film at the center of this book. Honestly, who wouldn’t? Karloff and Lugosi are, to my mind, every bit as iconic as anything else in my reading list. Had the book actually been about them, I might have enjoyed it more. Maybe I expected better because of the idea itself, maybe it was because Campbell’s name has always been there as someone I “should” read, or maybe the idea of discovering something new just really appealed to me at the time… whatever the case, nothing about this book beyond its basic premise held my attention.

C’est la vie. At least now I know Campbell’s not a necessity in my reading list. Curiosity is satisfied.

1 star


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