The Moon Pool

By: A. Merritt

In the ruins of an ancient civilization, a party of explorers discover an underground world of strange people and scientific wonders. Accidentally unleashing the malevolent spirit known as The Shining One, the group soon realizes that their intrusion has sparked a war for the control of the surface world and the fate of humanity. With weapons of untold destruction that seemingly break the laws of physics, all is lost until The Silent Ones make an appearance promising to aid in the battle for the world above, but the secret these ancient beings harbor may doom them all. 

Originally published in the magazine Argosy in 1919, The Moon Pool would be turned into a hardback novel later the same year becoming the first novel ever written by Abraham Merritt. By the time he died in 1943, Merritt successfully published 8 novels all in the vein of the old adventure serials with romantic vistas and battle-hardened heroes. I find it shocking that an author who sold millions of copies of his novels has been virtually forgotten by the majority of readers. In time, Merritt’s name became overshadowed, but hopefully this review will give his name a chance to be heard again.

The Moon Pool offers everything from retro adventure stories including dashing heroes, beautiful and chaste heroines, remote locations, lost races, hidden passages, ancient technology, and epic confrontations that decide the fate of the world. The writing style is very much in the same tone as The Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne especially when it comes to the poetic and slightly latinized diction. The Moon Pool was published just before a huge shift to a more modern English vernacular popularized by such novels as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit published in 1937. It’s essentially a time capsule of American literature. 

A common theme in older science fiction (and some modern science fiction) centers on how stories like The Moon Pool use the main narrator to recount events that have already happened before being transcribed and retold by characters we never meet. It’s a retelling of a retelling as with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  In this case, the main character Dr. Goodwin has told his account of the events of the narrative to a society of scientific scholars who then wrote his account down and distributed it to groups of readers. One of those groups being you. It creates this degree of separation between the main character and the reader because even as you come to understand the narrative though Dr. Goodwin’s eyes, you know he isn’t actually telling YOU what happened. He’s telling the society of scholars, and we aren’t even really sure where he is. I prefer Margaret Atwood’s rendition of this method because you don’t find out that’s what happened until the end of the book as opposed to the beginning. It’s more powerful when it’s a surprise. 

I can appreciate The Moon Pool for the time in which it was published, but ultimately, it’s outdated. Again, this is a time capsule for those who want to go back and see the way science fiction used to be before every story had us traveling to the stars and far away galaxies. This adventure is one that can be had here on (or rather in) planet Earth with crazy unknown science and alien like creatures. It’s cute, but it’s hard to understand at times. It’s old, but it has a charm that I couldn’t dislike even if I wanted to. I’m not saying you need to read it. I’m just saying I’m glad it was written because it paved the way for stories that would come after. 

Overall rating: 3

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