The Compendium of Srem

August 9, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads)

sremThe Compendium of Srem by F. Paul Wilson

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I’ve read a few books by Wilson over the years. I have fond memories of Sibs, and enjoyed Nightkill and Midnight Mass well enough, but he’s not a writer I’ve latched on to, despite my very much wanting to read the Adversary Cycle. His fiction is solid and entertaining, but somehow his style hasn’t grabbed me like other authors have. I thought this novella might be a way to jumpstart my interest in the author.

The story is set during the Spanish Inquisition, where a mysterious book falls into the hands of the Grand Inquisitor at a monastery. The book is bound in metal, is adorned with a pattern that changes whenever you blink, appears to the reader in their first language, and has moving pictures on its impossibly thin pages. The monks believe it to be evil, and set out to determine who made the book, and to ultimately destroy it.

The story reads like a mystery, which is no surprise since this novella is part of the Bibliomysteries series published by Mysterious Press, but it also has elements of science fiction, fantasy, and even horror. Parts of the story are glossed over, possibly for the interest of space, but also because Wilson feels like a non-nonsense author who wants to get quickly to the point. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, I don’t want an author to spend ridiculous amounts of space describing details that aren’t important, but neither do I want an author who removes all subtlety of storytelling just to get to the end. I’m chalking it up to trying to hit a minimum wordcount for the format, especially since I remember his other novels being effective.

What does set the novella apart is its commentary on religion and the Inquisition. It’s not a subtle theme, since even one of the Brothers in the monastery comment on how they’re no longer viewed as spiritual advisers, but instead as people to fear, but it’s an unexpected perspective, especially coming from one of the Brothers. It’s not enough to push the story into literary canon, but it makes it more than just an examination of a mysterious book.

This novella is a curiosity, enough so that I wonder if it’s a part of either the Adversary Cycle or the Repairman Jack novels. If so, then this is likely the earliest story in those chronologies, which means I’ll be all set for those books once I get started on them. Maybe I ought to move them up on my reading list.

Started: July 31, 2018
Finished: July 31, 2018

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