The Keep by F. Paul Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was glad that I went into this book unaware of many of the plot elements. It made for a more exciting read. Despite this, I was still surprised as things turn out to be not as they seemed. I liked F. Paul Wilson's writing voice. It's erudite and sophisticated. He did his research about WW2 and what was going on in Europe at this time. The aspects of the Nazis' treatment of the Jews and the Gypsies made my heart hurt. I can't and never will understand such barbarity, cruelty, and inhumanity. Mr. Wilson doesn't just throw this in for a background historical context. This becomes a very important aspect of this story as it deals very much with the nature of evil, how humanity's actions perpetrate evil and its sickness in the world.
The characters were engaging, making this supernatural story feel very grounded in some respects. I felt deeply for Magda. She was a strong woman hemmed in by circumstances, a sickly father who took her granted in a way that was almost criminal. All her dreams denied because of her need to take care of him, and because she was Jewish. Glenn is an interesting character as well. He's quite enigmatic, something more than human, although he wears the cloak of humanity well for the most part. He has lost touch with some of the human emotions, as he says, but in contrast to the SS soldiers, there is no question that he is a humane person. As for the Germans... I felt sorry for Woermann, and I didn't think he was a bad man. Imagine me feeling sympathy for a German soldier in WW2. The key point that I am glad that Wilson makes clear is that not all the Germans supported or believed in what Hitler was doing. Of course, many did act to thwart Hitler, and lost their lives in the process. Something that one might not choose to acknowledge on the surface, as it's easy to label all Germans as the hated Nazis. It is the truth, none the less. History now makes it clear that there was a strong German Resistance, as well there should have been. One hopes that good men and women will not stand by and watch evil happen, and Woermann felt like he had done too much of that and it destroyed his belief in himself, and the country that he had spent most of his life serving. In contrast, there was the SS commander, Kaempffer, who was a horribly evil, vile human being. It is harder to feel sympathy for him and his ilk, in light of his vicious and unwarranted hatred and persecution of people because they happened to be of a different ethnicity than him. Part of me relished seeing the SS soldiers get their just deserts, but Wilson makes it clear that this only perpetuates the dangerous taint of evil in this story.
There were some touches I liked very much in this story:
*A very obvious nod to the Lovecraftian mythos. They find copies of some of the forbidden books of Chthulu, such as De Vermis Mysteriis, Book of Eibon, Nameless Cults, Cultes des Goules and even The Necronomicon. Lovecraft fans will likely appreciate this as I did.
*I liked the romance very much. It was good to see that Magda does get a chance to have a 'life' and to be appreciated in a way that she didn't in a man's world, with a father who doesn't respect her as much as he should, and as a member of a group of people who were horribly persecuted against. And Glenn has been alone so long. Now he isn't.
*Some parts of this novel were truly creepy! I love a good scare, so I was a happy camper. It was less scary towards the end, but still thrilling and disturbing in a different way.
*The history and setting made this WW2 history buff happy, although sad at the same time. The Shoah is a disturbing subject, even in fiction. The supernatural horror of this story pales in comparison to what kinds of horrors really happened, and the fact that behind them was human evil and institutionalized racism.
*I like the cosmic scope of this battle between good and evil. I won't go into that, because that would spoil this book, and this is a book that the less you know, the better it reads. Suffice it to say, if you like arcane supernatural fiction as I do, you might enjoy these aspects of this book.
I found myself reading this very quickly on my Kindle. I was immersed in this story, transported to 1940s Romania, and submerged in the gothic feel of this novel. Although I had no expectations, it turned to be a lot more than I even imagined. I enjoyed it a lot.
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