The Polychromatic Prose of A. Merritt’s The Metal Monster

So, what is The Metal Monster? Imagine a concoction of one part She, one part The Moon Pool (natch), one part Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, one part D&D Modrons, and one part Big Hero Six. Blend and strain through A. Merritt’s glorious, vividly colorful, and painstakingly descriptive prose. It ought to make for a masterpiece. Maybe it is, but I found it lesser Merritt. He’s always been somewhat difficult to follow; his style can make it hard to figure out exactly what is going on, and where one thing is in relation to another. The descriptions are exacting, yet are written in such dense detail that it is easy to get lost. (He’d have been a hell of a technical writer.) Still, so long as the story is entertaining, it doesn’t much matter. You can pick up enough to carry on. In this case the story is entertaining…just enough. Little actually happens after an exciting action scene. The bulk of the tale is a travelogue through Merritt’s fantastic visual imagination: a civilization of living machines, of three-dimensional solids that can combine to form any conceivable object and think and act as one.

Therein lies the problem, I think. Other than…showing up, the characters have little impact on the story. The narrative is on rails. The POV character does nothing more than describe what he sees as he whizzes along rather than affecting, directing, or influencing the outcome. At least the final act is…kinetic.

Overall I liked it. It paints a tremendously imaginative, kaleidoscopic vision. I just expect more from Merritt.

Right, now for this commercial message: get your copies of Reunion and Under Strange Suns while you still can. The original editions won’t be available much longer, or so I’ve been informed.

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