SEAHORSE by Graham Petrie


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 The Ontario-based Petrie, who's published several film studies in the US, now addresses American readers with two dark, postmodern novels (see below), this first one originally published in 1980 in England. Incorporating supernatural elements and scenes that seem to contradict one another, Petrie spins a grim tale about a writer who comes to a remote, inbred sea village to study its inhabitants. These curious folk appear to be victims of The Institute, a shadowy, quasi-scientific organization that manipulates their dreams. The souls of the villagers normally inhabit an offshore island as they sleep, and, somehow, this is essential to the stability of their psychic lives. But the Institute has erected elaborate nets on the beach to trap the villagers' souls as they wander in their dreamscapes; hence, events dreamed become unreal and real events are undone. To enrich this premise, Petrie invents a card game for the villagers called Seahorse, in which the cards, like Tarot cards, predict events. Once the reader courses through these atmospherics, there isn't really much of a story. Our narrator--whom Petrie never names, but who has the villagers call ``Averridge'' and ``Everrich'' and ``Overage''--almost seduces the innkeeper's wife, then dreams of having sex with her, then sees himself engaged in sex with her on a Seahorse card. The wife kills the innkeeper and takes ``Averridge'' as her husband. Even though the narrator resolves to leave the village and write his book, somehow he can't, and he's further disconcerted to find that he resembles the innkeeper more with each passing, nightmarish day. On the other hand, maybe it's all a dream . . . . Calling the Institute the Institute and trapping the narrator inside his asylum is shamelessly trite. But Petrie's tone, like Poe's and Kafka's, is genuinely paranoid, resulting, all in all, in a chilling little tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1996
ISBN: 1-56947-077-4
Page count: 169pp
Publisher: Soho
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1995