The Invasion / The Valley by William Meikle. Book review

The Invasion / The Valley by William Meikle, Dark Regions, p/b, $16.95, Website

Reviewed by Dave Brzeski

I’d noticed, when reviewing ‘The Kew Growths and Other Stories ’, that one of the tales, ‘The Valley of the Lost’, was a sequel to William Meikle’s earlier novel, ‘The Valley’. Since I owned a copy, but hadn’t yet read it, I immediately decided to rectify that error. It was only when I came to start writing this review that I discovered that ‘The Valley’ has been repackaged, Ace Double Style, into a flipbook with another novel, ‘The Invasion’. Never let it be said that I would turn down an excuse to read more Meikle.

As well as being the prequel, of sorts, to one of the author’s Professor Challenger tales, ‘The Valley’ is also a “weird western”. A ragtag bunch of mercenaries have been hired to help protect the claim of some gold prospectors in Montana. When they reach their destination, they soon find that all couldn’t be less well. The camp has been virtually obliterated and the people are all either dead, or missing. It’s not long before they encounter the reason, as they are attacked by a horror straight out of a Ray Harryhausen film.

Mounting an expedition to follow the missing prospectors to the source of the gold, they find themselves in a valley, so completely cut off from the rest of the world that it’s populated by huge beasts from the Ice Age… including Mammoths and Sabre-Toothed Tigers. Rooted in the classic “lost world” fiction of Conan Doyle and Rider Haggard, it’s as much informed by the classic movies of the 50s and 60s, while being decidedly more brutal than either. Eventually they discover that the men who went before them had accidentally created a huge problem. A problem that would destroy the lost valley, and endanger the outside world. Do they stay and fix the mess, or do they turn tail and run? The term “page-turner” has rarely been more fitting…

… Except possibly when describing ‘The Invasion’, which I devoured in one afternoon. It’s snowing, and the snow is green! The news services find this odd phenomenon fairly amusing, until they find out it’s melting flesh and plant life on contact. In a novel that gradually picks up speed and never lets up until the end, William Meikle gives us a combination of ‘War of the Worlds’, ‘The Day of the Triffids’ and ‘The Blob’. Things go from bad, to worse, to unthinkably bad, to much, much worse. The fate of the planet lies in the hands of John Hiscock, a young survivalist; Professor Paul Sauser and, perhaps most importantly; Alice Noble, an amateur biologist, who ekes out a living ferrying tourists around the Bay of Fundy, between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I’m loathe to give away too many details of the plot, but I recommend this book very highly to anyone who enjoys fast-paced, action-packed adventure, as long as they can handle the death count.