First published back in April of 2012, British author G R Yeates’ Vetala Cycle omnibus ‘The Vetala Cycle: A Collected Edition’ compiled together all three novels, two short stories, the poem as well as a wealth of Vetala Cycle delights such as chapter-by-chapter commentaries, deleted scenes and alternate endings.

The Song Of The Cycle – A Creation Myth - 3 Pages
Here we have the lyrics for a strange and somewhat eerie song to the Vetala Cycle that wraps the trilogy up in its chilling words, touching upon much of the nightmarish world that we have glimpsed through the three novellas.  The song lyrics were first published as an additional extra at the end of ‘Hell’s Teeth’ (2012).

The Last Post - 19 Pages
Republishing of the short story that was originally included as an additional extra at the end of ‘
Hell’s Teeth’ (2012).  ‘The Last Post’ (2012) was later released as a standalone publication in September of 2012.

The Last Post – Commentary - 1 Page
In his brief commentary on the short story ‘
The Last Post’ (2012) Yeates details his motivation for writing the tale based on ‘The Christmas Truce’ of 1914, as well as his feelings surrounding the historical event and how he has ultimately incorporated the messages which it brings to light within his fictional adaptation.

The Eyes Of The Dead - 166 Pages
Republishing of the first novel in the Vetala Cycle – ‘The Eyes Of The Dead’ (2011).

The Eyes Of The Dead – Chapter Commentary - 15 Pages
Here Yeates takes the reader chapter-by-chapter through the entire story of ‘
The Eyes Of The Dead’ (2011).  Each chapter is sectioned off, containing a short paragraph which details much of the author’s inspiration, motivation, hopes and plans for the chapters.

Yeates delves into numerous specifics when referencing his various inspirations; naming Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ (1920) as what set in motion the backdrop to the tale, detailing how the primary influence for the Vetala was from the film ‘Nosferatu’ (1922), with the look of the Vetala based on Count Orlok, and how the giant black rats from James Herbert’s debut novel ‘The Rats’ (1974) inspired him to utilise rats as this first novel’s symbolic avatar.

The ideas and inspiration behind the characters of Wilson, Smithy and Brookes are briefly explained; incorporating generic representations for the soldiers who these contrasting characters represent.  Yeates further explains how the real-life horrors of WWI were brought into his tale in (hopefully) a reasonably accurate fashion - with the true to life horror, pain and misery reflected in all its blood chilling glory.

Throughout the chapter-by-chapter dissection, Yeates references back to a multitude of historical aspects from WWI, bringing home the horrific reality of the war.  Genuine accounts of the atrocities of warfare are incorporated in the tale, with barely a second spared for the reader to catch their breath.  Furthermore, Yeates refers to the constant oppressive and never-ending barrage of horror that he hoped to achieve as ‘the total effect’ that was a term that was originally coined by Edgar Allan Poe.

Yeates’ conscious and purposeful approach to leaving things open for interpretation in the tale is explained, which lets the reader see exactly how thoroughly planned-out the author’s approach to writing is.  And that’s something that really comes through in the commentary – how much of the construction is intrinsically thought out and then purposefully left open.

It’s a unique insight into the writing process, not only for Yeates’ novels, but for writing fiction in general.

Shapes In The Mist - 182 Pages
Republishing of the second novel in the Vetala Cycle – ‘Shapes In The Mist’ (2011).

Shapes In The Mist – Chapter Commentary - 16 Pages
Yeates starts out his chapter-by-chapter commentary of ‘
Shapes In The Mist’ (2011) detailing his inspiration for the penny on the railway track scene which is what begins the story.  It turns out that the flattened penny was an idea taken from the band Godspeed You Black Emperor.  From here on it’s pretty much an overview of the tale for much of the commentary, with nods towards the likes of Dennis Wheatley’s ‘The Devil Rides Out’ (1934) for the séance scene inspiration.

However, moving away from the general overview and on to the juicer stuff, where Yeates provides details for the reasons why he wrote things in certain ways.  This is by far and away where these chapter commentaries really come into their own.  In these Yeates explains how he intentionally never refers to Jack the Ripper as a person, but instead writes about him as the monster he has become in people’s minds.  He references Peter Sutcliffe’s “We be the echo” and the loose truth/legend behind this.  Furthermore, Yeates details who certain characters were based upon, such as with Dr Spice being based upon the Spiritualist charlatan Henry Price.

Much of the commentary references real-life situations for those living in London at the time.  Yeates regularly tells the reader about his research uncovering the grisly discoveries that he was compelled to add in to his book.  Often in the form of some sordid truth to the Victorian era that was swept under the carpet or otherwise romanticised.  Yeates tells us of how he went for a much more truthful reality to the grimy streets – to offer up a much truer reflection of those particularly hard times.

All in all it’s another insightful and intriguing commentary that gives you a clearer idea of the workings behind the story and why Yeates chose to adopt certain traits within the writing.  It must be said that the commentary doesn’t really go into as much depth or reveal as many interesting details as the previous commentary, however, there’s still plenty to be taken from it and it is certainly well worth a read.

Hell’s Teeth - 127 Pages
Republishing of the third novel in the Vetala Cycle – ‘
Hell’s Teeth’ (2012).

Hell’s Teeth – Chapter Commentary - 12 Pages
The chapter-by-chapter commentary for the third novel in the Vetala Cycle, ‘
Hell’s Teeth’ (2012), is much the same affair as with the previous two.  However, unlike with the last one, the commentary has once again returned to detailing more about the inspiration, construction and thought behind the work, as it had in the commentary for ‘The Eyes Of The Dead’ (2011).  As mentioned previously, this is where the real interest with these commentaries lies, and so including more of these elements in the commentary is a definite plus point.

Indeed, Yeates starts out detailing his inspiration for The Night Bus which appears for the first time in the novel’s prologue.  Yeates names Lovecraft’s letter to Donald Wandrei from 1927 that was adapted into a short story by J Chapman Miske entitled ‘The Thing In The Moonlight’ (1941).  

Later on, Yeates details how this third instalment continues with the theme in basing a good proportion of the storyline around real-life accounts.  In this novel, Yeates references Sydney Loch’s ‘To Hell And Back’ (1916) which is a memoir of a soldier’s experiences in the trenches of Gallipoli.  Loch’s memoir has duly been transposed into the principal character of Thomas Potter, adding that believable angle of reality to the endless horror that floods the reader’s senses.

The commentary continues along these lines, offering up the reasoning behind things such as the cover artwork, the use of the disorientating ‘Groundhog Day’ (1993) syndrome, whereby the lead characters experience repetitive flashbacks as death closes in on them.  Further on Yeates details the thought process behind shifting the storyline to New Zealand for a small portion of the tale, along with the author’s invention of the fabricated area of Sevengraves-on-Sea / Felfolk (which he promises will appear in future publications).

The commentary eventually takes the reader to the novel’s tragic end, where the openness of the concluding epilogue is detailed and justified in ‘the bigger scheme of things’.  This is very interesting to see the thinking behind and ends the Vetala Cycle novels’ commentaries on a perfectly insightful note.

The End Of War - 12 Pages
This is the first time that the short story ‘The End Of War’ (2012) saw publication.  The short story was later released as a standalone publication in September of 2012.

The End Of War – Commentary – 1 Page
Okay so the commentary is super short.  It really just details one particular point – the reasoning for why the short was written.  And in that, Yeates hits the nail on the head entirely.  Having read and reviewed the short a little while before learning of this commentary, I came to the very same conclusion.  The short does fill that void that was left at the end of the preceding books.  And it does add an element of human warmth alongside a respectful final bow.  And Yeates is absolutely spot on with what he set out to achieve with the short – it just feels right.

Deleted Scenes:
The Eyes Of The Dead – Sister Fearing’s Death - 4 Pages
Yeates introduces the deleted scene from
The Eyes Of The Dead’ (2011) with a quick warning regarding the strong and gory nature of the following passage.  And by God he doesn’t disappoint!  Here we see Sister Fearing seemingly confronted by an angel, one of the Seraphim, as she attempts to lead the survivors out of the Base Hospital following the German bombing and the incursion by the Vetala.  However, what awaits Fearing is far from a holy vision, but something that will bring about one hell of a nasty scene of depraved gut-churning splatter.  This is one for those that love a good old helping of visceral splatterpunk.

The Eyes Of The Dead – Wilson’s Forgotten Past - 4 Pages
This next deleted scene also
fromThe Eyes Of The Dead’ (2011) begins with another short introduction from the author detailing the reasoning behind its removal – apparently not due to its graphic nature (and god lord is it nasty), but more because the scene would apparently undermine the principal character of Wilson as he developed throughout the course of the narrative.  Okay, that makes sense.  However, had the scene been left in it would no doubt have been one of those monstrously vile moments that bursts out from the storyline, lingering in the reader’s mind a long time afterwards, like with the very crème de la crème of Hutson gross-out scenes.  The scene involves a particular low from Wilson’s past which he now remembers.  And be warned, it’s pretty strong reading.

Alternate Endings:
Shapes In The Mist – Darkness As One - 8 Pages
Okay, so ‘
Shapes In The Mist’ (2011) is a pretty darn bleak novel as it is.  But what if the ending just let go of the steering wheel and simply careened off the edge of the cliff in a ‘Thelma And Louise’ (1991) signoff; ending on an even bleaker note than the novel had adopted thus far?  Well, this is what you’d get.  A swirling mass of a grand finale.  Far bleaker, but nevertheless more conclusive in its ultimate finality.  It’s certainly as suitable and fitting as the one Yeates ultimately decided to use.  And it works incredibly well.  It’s one of those alternate endings that makes you want to read the whole tale again, and slot it in at the required point to see it all fall into a tragic maelstrom of shit.  This is one of those added extras in the Collected Edition that really makes it worthwhile getting, to see the tales pan out in an equally befitting and down beaten light.  Good work Mr Yeates.

Hell’s Teeth - Adrift - 1 Page
Instead of ending the novels by completing the cycle, which is how the final version of ‘
Hell’s Teeth’ (2012) concludes, Yeates initially tried out a far simpler and altogether starker ending, which is seen here with the return to Thomas Potter and Lieutenant Bell adrift in the sea once again.  And with a quietly depressive final bow, Yeates closes off the novel with a hauntingly emotional sigh of utter regret.  Okay, so it’s not as impactful and successful an ending as what Yeates finally delivered, but this alternate ending still has its quiet charm in its equally depressing way.

From The Shadows, I Hear Screams - Preview - 9 Pages
Finally we have a short preview of Yeates’ forthcoming Vetala Cycle novella planned for 2013 entitled ‘From The Shadows, I Hear Screams’ which takes the mythos on to the Second World War.

The collection runs for a total of 528 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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