Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review - Other Kingdoms by Richard Matheson

Other Kingdoms
Richard Matheson Trade Paperback
287 Pages
Publisher: Tor/Forge Books
Publication Date: March 1st, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0765327680


Other Kingdoms by Richard Matheson is a darkly entertaining and gripping fantasy and while not his usual bill-of-fare the story is both enjoyable and interesting from many perspectives. Matheson’s stories, usually filled with aspects of fear and horror, have been captivating fans for decades and while Other Kingdoms does come off very dissimilar than most of his past accomplishments it tells a wonderful story, nonetheless. Other Kingdoms is quite definitely a fantasy novel, it contains witches and fairies and things that go bump in the forest for instance, and while not a horror novel per se it contains characteristics of fear and dread that lurk uncomfortably subtle below the surface of almost every page. What sets this particular work apart is that Matheson proves he can write in any genre or style and still be an effective storyteller.

Other Kingdoms is the nostalgic retelling by an elderly author of his experiences as a young man in the years right after his release from World War I. After the death of a comrade in the trenches of France and the discovery of a large lump of pure gold in his belongings he decides to travel to his friends homeland in England in an effort to understand how and why the precious metal came into his possession. It becomes a story of the Fae or Fairy Folk living in the woods of central England and one man’s encounter and interaction with the dark and supernatural creatures of the forest he finds there. Matheson takes on the affectations and prose of a writer born at the turn of the twentieth century (i.e. in the style of H.P. Lovecraft or A. A. Merritt) and it works. When the internal author tells us of his experiences in the trenches during World War I we are spirited away to that time and place. When he interacts with the Faye we are chilled, suffer at the thought of losing our souls, and are distraught by the creatures that dwell in the land of Fairy. Alex, the main character, soon becomes embroiled in a love/hate relationship as the third point of a triangle that also includes a witch and a fairy. Not sure whom to trust and whom to love Alex struggles first, with the fact that the Faye actually exist and second, that he could become involved with them let alone fall in love with one of them.

I'd like to say a few words about the many reviews I've seen of this book and to refute one often repeated critique that has been perpetuated ad infinitum. There are NOT too many parenthesis (asides) in this book, period. There are many, to be sure but Matheson uses them to let the reader hear what the main character is thinking (from his older, wiser perspective), to let us in on his internal jokes, and to give us a better insight into the character’s mental state both through the experiences of the young man and the memory of the elderly one telling the story. That this minor, structural literary device bothered so many readers is puzzling to me. In my opinion, it did not distract from but enhanced the story. The elderly, more jaded, man became more understandable through the parenthetical asides. Mr. Matheson? If you are listening (reading this) please continue to write as you see fit. Your devices have yet to fail you and haven’t this time either. I, for one, will continue to purchase your work and I suspect many, many others will, as well.

Recommended for fans of urban and/or pastoral fantasy, witchcraft, mystery, Victorian fantasy, Fairies, or just plain well-written literature.

Disclaimer: Review copy provided free as part of the Vine Program.

4 stars out of 5

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

Richard Matheson Wiki Page

Richard Matheson SCi-Fi Masters Page

Richard Matheson Storyteller

Other Kingdoms Excerpt Other Kingdoms Excerpt

Richard Matheson Biography

clip_image004 Richard Matheson is The New York Times bestselling author of I Am Legend, Hell House, Somewhere in Time, The Incredible Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, The Beardless Warriors, The Path, Seven Steps to Midnight, Now You See It…, and What Dreams May Come, among others. He was named a Grand Master of Horror by the World Horror Convention, and received the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. He has also won the Edgar, the Spur, and the Writer's Guild awards. In 2010, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. In addition to his novels, Matheson wrote screenplays, and he wrote for several Twilight Zone episodes, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” based on his short story. He was born in New Jersey and raised in Brooklyn, and fought in the infantry in World War II. He earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. He lives in Calabasas, California.

Richard Matheson’s Novels*

Fury on Sunday (1953)
Someone Is Bleeding (1953)
I Am Legend (1954) aka The Omega Man
Woman (1954)
The Shrinking Man (1956) aka Incredible Shrinking Man
A Stir of Echoes (1958)
Ride the Nightmare (1959)
The Beardless Warriors (1960)
Comedy of Terrors (1964) (with Elsie Lee)
Hell House (1971)
The Night Stalker (1972) (with Jeff Rice)
The Night Strangler (1973)
Somewhere in Time (1975) aka Bid Time Return
What Dreams May Come (1978)
Earthbound (1982) (writing as Logan Swanson)
Journal of the Gun Years (1991)
The Gun Fight (1993)
The Path: A New Look at Reality (1993)
7 Steps to Midnight (1993)
Shadow on the Sun (1994)
Now You See It.... (1995)
The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok (1996)
Hunger and Thirst (2000)
Passion Play (2000)
Camp Pleasant (2001)
Hunted Past Reason (2002)
Abu and the 7 Marvels (2002)
Come Fygures, Come Shadowes (2003)
The Link (2006)
Richard Matheson's Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (2011)
Other Kingdoms (2011)

* Source: Fantastic Fiction (

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