Review: The Eye of Infinity

By Randy Stafford

Conyers, David. The Eye of Infinity. Perilous Press (2011). 84 pp. USD $12.00. ISBN 978-0-9704000-4-8.

As Cody Goodfellow suggests in his introduction to this novella, the modern writer of Lovecraftian horror isn’t content to populate his stories with wimpy students of folklore and mathematics, hapless college professors and genealogists. The new version of the Lovecraftian hero is as comfortable wielding a Glock as reading a grimoire. Some versions are even government employees and battling cosmic horrors is in their position descriptions. They don’t wade through erudite analyses of occult tomes and abstruse dimension-rupturing mathematics. They’ve got people and supercomputers for that. Thus, we have the Lovecraftian espionage tale as most famously practiced in Charles Stross’ Laundry series. Goodfellow doesn’t see this as some sort of post-modern genre mashup but merely continuing the Weird Tales tradition of “blending genres to wring unique new surprises out of familiar pulp tropes”.

I have to admit, though, I haven’t read enough of any author’s “tradecraft meets Lovecraft” stories (to borrow Tim Powers’ description of his novel Declare) to fairly compare them with Conyers’work in that area. I haven’t even read the prequel to this story, The Spiraling Worm co-authored by John Sunseri with Conyers.

That book introduced Harrison Peel, an Australian soldier on loan to America’s National Security Agency. In that book, Peel traveled the universe via an alien wormhole system; encountered shoggoths; partnered up with fellow spy Jack Dixon, an ex-Illinois cop; and fell in love with Nicola Mulvany during some nasty events in Nevada.

This story starts with the hideous looking corpse of a radio astronomer in New Mexico, a dead man who now has too many eyes and too many mouths. Dixon and Peel quickly discover a trail that leads to a secret U.S. government project, INFINITE EYE. It uses the wormhole network of the Pentapods, aliens that built a city in the Antarctic millions of years ago, Conyers’ obvious updating of Lovecraft’s Old Ones from At the Mountains of Madness. With a six trillion dollar budget, it’s obviously something important, so Peel goes on a jaunt, guided by an ex-mountaineer and NASA employee, across several worlds and light years to see what lies at the end of this covert network.

Conyers’ story works as a spy thriller – with Peel and even his NSA superiors locked out of the secrets of INFINITE EYE and somebody suborning or murdering members of the project – and as Lovecraftian horror justified by quantum physics and sudden, violent assaults on Peel and others. Indeed, it becomes clear INFINITE EYE may threaten humanity.

Peel isn’t a supersoldier physically or emotionally, and I liked that. He’s beginning to feel the erosion of his psyche from all the horrors he’s seen, and Nicola has given him an ultimatum: either quit after his next mission, marry her and start a family or let her join him and use her training as an ex-counter intelligence agent with the FBI.

There were some problems, though. Yes, Agent Peel, modern ammunition will, in fact, fire in a vacuum. The gunpowder has its own oxidizers. That technical error took me out of the story and wasn’t even justified as being crucial to Conyers’ plot. The dialogue between Peel and Nicola was sometimes flat and sounded like bald character exposition mixed with some training script for police crisis counselors. Conyers’ avoids falling into some logic potholes only by sheer speed of narration.

Still, though, I liked the story enough that I’m going to pick up The Spiraling Worm and will follow Peel’s future adventures.

And, lest you think $12 is a mite steep for a novella, this one comes with some nice black and white drawings by Nickolas Gucker. His work nicely illustrates dramatic points of the story – whether they’re alien landscapes or sudden and gruesome deaths.