The Rot Also Recommends…

A novella by the illustrator Richard A. KirkThe Lost Machine by Richard A. Kirk

If you recognize Kirk’s name at all, you probably know him as the talented and successful illustrator of a number of creepy books.  He has provided the art for many of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s titles from Subterranean Press, as well as for authors like Clive Barker and China Mieville.  Kirk’s style suites Kiernan’s work particularly well.  His drawings often include natural forms–puff balls, fungi, extinct giant insects–as well as broken bits of machinery and repurposed detritus.  Kirk renders all of this in clean lines and subtle shadings that border on the hyper-real.

The Lost Machine is Kirk’s first foray into fiction writing, and I’ll confess that I bought the novella mostly for the illustrations.  Then I read it, and found myself pleasantly surprised.  Kirk’s visual clarity and flair for arresting images are just as present in his writing as they are in his artwork.  With a few phrases, Kirk can suggest what would, in the hands of another writer, be chapters of back story.  Check out his description of a rather unusual shoreline, as an example:

“Lumsden Moss and Irridis stood on the Sea of Steps, looking down through the haze at the sea.  Hundreds of limestone steps descended into the water and beyond.  On either side, the steps stretched away for miles, interrupted only by the gargantuan engine houses that moved the cable cars between the top of the stairs and sea level.  It was a calm day and the steps, worn from over a thousand years of use, echoed the undulations of the sea.”

We never learn who carved these steps or why, nor do I think we need to.  What amazes me is how this simple paragraph suggests decades of effort and toil, the crowning achievement of a vanished society, the meaning of which has now been lost.  Rather like European man’s first view of a pyramid, only less explicable.

I don’t want spoil the story for anyone, so I’ll confine myself to saying that the The Lost Machine is a quest of sorts, played out across a civilization that was once greater than our own, but which has succumbed to an ecological catastrophe.  It’s a quick, entertaining, and thought provoking read.  And the illustrations are fantastic.

Dave Hurwitz

Buy The Lost Machine directly from the author here.

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