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Alien Stars

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Alien Stars

By David Hambling

Mysteries and bodies pile up when boxer-turned-detective Harry Stubbs takes a job tracking down an enigmatic artifact. An insidious alien force, a reckless partner, and an alluring femme fatale all get in Harry’s way as the stars wheel toward a cataclysm only he can prevent.

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2 reviews for Alien Stars

  1. Randy Stafford

    Another adventure, another new boss for Harry Stubbs, our plain spoken narrator who has a quicker mind and deeper thoughts than he gives himself credit for. No false modesty, though, about his boxing skills.

    Stubbs plays “bombardier” to “Sergeant” Skinner, another veteran of the Great War. They perform “curious chores”, some legal, some not, for Randolph Stafford, a man in the grip of some private obsession.

    Sent to toss an apartment, Skinner and Stubbs do find something curious: a carbonized corpse in a suitcase and reference to a “beetle” that Stafford and other parties, violent parties, take an interest in.
    And we’re off to another quite satisfying and fresh Hambling take on H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

    He doesn’t do Lovecraft pastiches. Using his experience as a popular science journalist, Hambling recasts Lovecraft stories in a modern scientific mode while keeping the 1920s setting. He also throws in some real occult lore, appropriate since he’s a regular columnist for the Fortean Times. There’s also plenty of real-life weirdness to use in the richly detailed London suburb of Norwood where the Stubbs adventures take place.

    And, while there are now many Mythos tales cross-pollinated with the private eye genre, Stubbs isn’t exactly a private eye. Nor does Hambling write imitation Raymond Chandler prose (though he has done that elsewhere). Stubbs is a break from both the scholarly gentleman of Lovecraft stories and a mere detective – though Stubbs is taking correspondence courses to become one.

    To say more would spoil the pleasant surprises as Hambling picks up threads from the previous two Stubbs books including a woman who has matrimonial eyes for Stubbs. The ending is not something one expects from a Mythos story.

    One thing is quite clear. The Norwood of the Stubbs’ stories is the same Norwood as that in Hambling’s collection of linked stories in The Dulwich Horror & Others. The enigmatic and formidable Estelle De Vere, who shows up in two of those stories, has plenty of on-stage time here.

    And I fear that one of the stories in that book hints at a bad fate for Harry in the future.

    You could start with this Stubbs story, but do yourself a favor and start his adventures with the first novel, The Elder Ice.

    And then move on to The Dulwich Horror & Others to see the full range of Hambling’s skill.

  2. C.T. Phipps

    HARRY STUBBS is back and fighting the Great Od Ones again! The adventures of a early 20th century London boxer and amateur detective remains one of my favorite Cthulhu spin-offs. It’s a series of well-researched detective stories which are more interested in the occult secret societies, weird history of London, and cultists versus the actual supernatural weirdness so many other stories deal with. In simple terms, it’s more The 9th Gate versus Friday the Thirteenth in how it compares to most stories.

    ALIEN STARS opens with Harry having lost his job with legitimate firms and having been reduced to doing criminal work with a corrupt partner. They now serve as thieves and black marketeers who acquire antiques with occult significance then sell them to their patrons. It’s a pretty big shift for the normally honest and forthright Harry so I found this change a bit jarring. This time, his latest job results in a death of a young woman who is involved in a conspiracy to deal with an unnatural plague that can destroy the world.

    Alien Stars isn’t quite as enjoyable as the other two volumes of the series due to the fact Harry doesn’t quite work as a professional criminal and I felt the more “aware” cultists helping him investigate the occult was less interesting than the protagonist stumbling around on his own. On the plus side, I liked the larger role of women in the story. There’s more in this book and they play a more central role than usual. I also appreciate all the references to the Colour out of Space, which is my favorite of HPL’s work.

    I appreciate Harry’s working class attitudes and how he’s more worried about raising enough money to make it through next week than he is about the cosmic forces menacing the universe. I’m not sure it’s believable he has as much trouble finding work as he does given the horrible casualties of both WW1 as well as the Spanish Flu. You’d think there’d be plenty of work for him to find but he’s probably developing a bad reputation given all the uncomfortable things he’s found himself involved with. I also appreciated some hints that Harry is contemplating his love life and the fact he’s fallen into a relationship with a fallen woman.

    The book also introduces Harry to some racist and occultist organizations that aren’t immediately destroyed by the end of the book. I think they make an interesting contrast to Harry, who if not a progressive by modern standards, is certainly so for his time. I don’t think he’ll remain with his current employers long but am not sure how he’d be able to turn against them without getting himself killed. Harry is not a evil genius or guile hero, he’s just a solid working class man who survives the Great Old Ones primarily by knowing when to run.

    This book is also the first time Harry is actually attempting to stop one of the supernatural menaces he’s found himself facing. Before, he’s ended up dealing with issues sideways or existing on the peripherary of something supernatural. Here, there’s a real threat to the world and it’s interesting to see how Harry copes with it. Part of the books’ charm is the fact he’s not a hero but dealing with things that are potentially world-shaking. His bystander status (and continued survival) is one of the things which makes him almost unique in the Cthulhu Mythos.

    In conclusion, this is a decent sequel to the previous Harry Stubbs novels and I recommend them to anyone who wants to continue the series. David Hambling has created a wonderfully complex occult detective mystery series that makes excellent use of its historical period.

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