The rattle of nails and artillery shells (Baltimore, by Mignola/Golden)

I just completed (indeed, this very morning before leaving the house) Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden’s latest effort, Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire. I am a long-time fan of both of these creators, particularly Mignola, whose fantastic and oft-times hilarious (while simultaneously creepy) Hellboy has entertained me for many years. Golden has written quite a bit as well, though I am only familiar with him as the author of a couple of Hellboy novels, and the editor of a couple of short-story collections. It is my understanding that he is big in the Buffy-authoring community, but I never quite “got” the whole Buffynominon.

None of that has anything to do with this book, though. This is an illustrated volume, enhanced with art of Mignola’s spectacular and unsettling artwork. When rendered in black and white, his drawings achieve something of a wood-cut quality, which makes them even more impressive. They are throughout the book, both as text-enhancing decorations and the occassional full-page image, and they add signifigantly to the story’s effect.

 I say story, but in fact Baltimore is essentially a frame story, in which three strangers, related only by their acquaintance with Lord Baltimore, tell tales of supernatural horror. The frame is the story of Lord Baltimore himself, and his experiences during a slightly altered (from our own experience) Great War, and the plague that follows. Each story is in and of itself entertaining, and also serves to create an aura of mounting dread a’la Lovecraft, that all that we know and think we know about the world may very well be wrong. There are (obviously) vampires in the book, but the tales of the three companions seemed to me more unsettling, dealing as they did with less explicable horrors. This is not to say that the story of Lord Baltimore, that ties the book together and gives it its structure, is not both entertaining and creepy. Even Baltimore’s story is a significant divergence in many ways from the “traditional” vampire tale, which is a welcome thing.

Goden and Mignola both think in a highly visual way, and it is evident here: there are several moments, several visual vignettes of text, that will stay with me long after the remainder of the book has rotted away to a gray paste at the back of my brain. Really, if you are looking for a tale of supernatural suspense that leans more towards the unsettling than the gory (though don’t be mistaken: there is the occassional flash of crimson), you probably couldn’t do a lot better from modern authors than Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire. (for those of you interested in such things, “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” is a rather depressing little tale by Hans Christian Andersen, that weaves its way throughout the book in interesting parallel paths) 

Published in: on September 5, 2007 at 8:50 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve really been looking forward to this one since I first heard of it. I still haven’t picked up my copy, but I’m more and more excited about it with each review I read. Thanks for your wonderful review! Your description of Mignola’s artwork have me dying to get my hands on it!

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It always amazes me, on the rare occasions that it happens, when I pick up a recently written book and find it to be written in a style reminiscent of another age. I loved this story and am already craving a rereading just to enjoy the atmosphere of the individual tales. As I said in my review, I found the ending a bit too hastily handled and not quite as satisfying as the rest of the book and I am also not thrilled by the “war is bad” allegory, but that can easily be left behind in what is such a suspensful, atmospheric tale. And beings that I am currently reading Lovecraft, I can definitely see his inspiration in all of this. An amazing achievement, I only wish there were many more books like this being written today.

  3. Thanks for coming by my blog for Gil’s All Fright Diner!.. yeah it was a really good book! I didn’t think I’d like it all that much as I’m not into vampires or werewolves and such, but his spin on them is great! Just finished Company of Ogres and will be posting that tomorrow..

    All these books are out of my comfort zone, as they say, but i still like to read the reviews!

  4. I really think I’ll end up adding this one as an extra for the challenge. All the reviews I’ve read so far make me think I’ll really enjoy it. Thanks for the great review!

  5. Nymeth, you MUST read Baltimore!!!

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