MEDUSA by E. H. Visiak (1929)
“#13 Medusa. If David Lindsay had written Treasure Island in the throes of a peyote-induced religious experience…Well, if Coleridge had given Melville a hand on Moby Dick after a few pipes of opium….”
-Karl Edward Wagner, “13 Best Supernatural Horror Novels” (Twilight Zone Magazine, 1983)
E. H. Visiak (1878-1972) was better known by his real name of Edward Harold Physick. His interests reigned from John Milton to mysticism. He was also a close friend of novelist David Lindsay, the author of A Voyage to Acturus. He was also an authority on Victorian literature, which shows up quite clearly in this book.
Medusa is a novel which floats along. It begins with the author’s childhood: how his parents perished at sea, how he was raised by a Spanish priest before being sent to his grandparents in England. There are no dates given, but I assume the time frame to be the early 19th century. After being sent to a boarding school, he escapes the harsh Dickens-type environment to live with the kindly Mr. Huxtable. This arrangement doesn’t last long because Mr. Huxtable needs to go on an unexplained sea voyage and decides to bring the writer along.
The whole book is written in a very verbose Victorian style. And I must say, it is a chore to read. Not quite as painful as Melmoth the Wanderer, but close. Visiak is fond of phrase after phrase carefully strung together to make a sentence.
Before and during the voyage we are introduced to one very interesting character: Obidiah Moon, a salty old sailor and maybe a pirate. If there is a Long John Silver figure in this book, it’s Moon. He’s got plenty of secrets to hide.
I could go into the book in more detail, but it’s hard to do that without spoiling the conclusion. I will say the last 50 or so pages of Medusa exist in some kind of dream world.
An interesting book if you want a challenging read.