Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Fowler, Christopher. Rune (New York: Ballantine, 1991) 340 p.
The basement of an old and rundown London library houses a great collection of occult books. Dorothy Huxley is the librarian. “With her hair tied in a bun and a woolen cardigan draped over her narrow shoulders, she appeared more like a pensioner checking for the latest romance novel.” (p. 96). Her assistant is Frank Drake.

His enthusiasm was boundless and mostly misapplied.... Some people lacked the necessary equipment to face the rigors and responsibilities of modern life. Frank Drake was one of them. Academically bright but physically useless, he was doomed to be a perpetual student, full of ideas about how to change the world, but incapable of changing a plug.... He possessed an aptitude for a startling array of skills, but his ever-shifting attention destroyed his prospects in any single career. His mind was a jumble of good intentions, a confusion of half-baked plans that constantly intruded into his work. Twenty-eight years old, slightly built and prematurely balding, he seemed destined to pass into middle age ten years ahead of other people.
Although most of the general library sections were depleted, the building’s single greatest strength lay in the volumes on ancient history and the supernatural which Dorothy’s mother had collected together. A red rope separated the entrance from the public section of the library. The stairs led down to the occult reference collection, housed in the basement.... The overhead light panel flickered on. As the smell of decay filled her nostrils, she took stock of the room. The far wall of the basement had a severe case of rising damp, and most of the stacks nearest to it—TEMPLARS, TETRAGRAMS, THOUGHT READING, TRANSMUTATION—were steeped in mildew. (p. 97).

Dorothy stood in the basement of the library and felt the frightening weight of the words which surrounded her. It was as if the sheer volume of thought held here had created an artificial gravity within the room. She felt the bloating damp which mottled the pages of each ancient tome pressing against her skin, but still dangerous that their mere transcription had caused untold suffering. Lives had been lost building this collection. Theories with their seeds in one volume had been nurtured in another decades later; and later still had borne their poisoned fruit in detailed manuscripts. The collection, completed by her mother as she neared her final breath, now lay in waste and decay, its secrets undiscovered.
But this was how it had been intended.
For although the collection represented itself as harmless esoterica to the casual browser, it revealed to the dedicated scholar a universe of cruelty, for the simple reason that it was perfectly complete. No further study was needed than careful perusal of the books within these walls. Their knowledge, once it had been truly comprehended and applied, would yield a harvest of such darkness that no light would ever penetrate the void again. The library could kill. (p. 154-55).

Dorothy uses the occult reference collection to help foil an international conspiracy. The general collection also comes in handy when some of Dorothy’s friends try to create a videotape with a subliminal message. They arrange the book spines on the shelves in the background to spell out the message.

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