The Lantern Mundi of Kentigern. and Other Stories by Malcolm Laughton.
Amazon. 165 pp. p/b. £6.99
Reviewed by Steve Dean
The Lantern Mundi, it says in the blurb in case you haven’t worked it out for yourself, is the lantern of the world. It holds the secret of the strange transformations threatening to overwhelm the city of Kentigern. Our heroes are Archibold and Gormson, who set off on a road trip to a mythical fortress which is said to house the lantern. Meanwhile, the city’s two rival rulers, the General and the Reverend, plot against each other for control of the chaotic city. You can probably work out what each of them are like by their titles.
Most of the book is taken up by the titular story, but there are several more at the end, most of them very short. They’re a mix of weird and horror stories, and whether you consider them filler or extra value for money will depend on whether you enjoy them or not.
The main story is well-written, the characters are fine if a little thin, and the grammar and spelling is all up to standard. It all goes a little wrong when the author tries to force too much into too small a space. As in many other areas of life, this never ends well. The Reverend and the General don’t really get their time in the spotlight, and there’s a sub-plot that gets completely lost in the rush for page space. The author could have dumped the Other Stories and given the main one more room to expand.
I also found the ending muddled and somewhat dissatisfying. Again, I think the problem was space, too much exposition crammed into too few pages. Annoyingly, the first part of the story is too pedestrian, if the author had upped the pacing a little there, more space would have been available for the climax. I also think it went a little too far into weird territory, certainly for my liking.
If you like weird stories you may enjoy this book. If not, it’s probably not the book for you.