- RAIN 101 -

First published back in November of 2010, Andy McIlvain’s ‘Bloop’ was chapbook number 101 from Rainfall Books.  The chapbook was limited to just 50 unnumbered copies, all of which were signed by creator, cover artist and Rainfall publisher Steve Lines.

DLS Synopsis:
In early 1997 scientists revealed a mysterious recording claiming it could well be the sound of a giant beast lurking in the depths of the ocean. Researchers nicknamed the source of unidentifiable sound as ‘Bloop’.  Shortly afterwards, SOSUS nets picked up a strange sound of biological origin in the southern Pacific.  Something very large and alive was setting off the underwater tripwires positioned in various shallow chokepoints along the ocean bed.

Whatever it was, it was moving at high speed across the Pacific.  Furthermore, several merchant vessels had disappeared along the same route.  Surface ships and submarines from at least three nations were now tracking the large biologic target which was now considered to be aggressive and hostile to human life.

The Parche, a spy submarine under the command of Captain Hollister, was sent to investigate.  However, as the sub neared the area where Bloop was thought to be located, an announcement to all those aboard the submarine is made.  Admiral Leland Hayes informs the crew that from this point on he would be taking charge.

It’s revealed that a Special Ops Unit tasked out of FEMA already has a good idea of what’s going on.  En route to the site of the Bloop, the Admiral explains the situation as best they know it.  He begins with the Old Ones – the gods which were older than time itself.  How Cthulhu has been imprisoned by a group of rival entities within an underwater city named R’lyeh.

They know Cthulhu is part of the very fabric of the Earth as well as connected to the Etheric realm.  Because of this, it is believed that what they do to Cthulhu will have repercussions on the world at large.  Nevertheless, angels and demons, old ones and their ghoulish disciples, are coming to war, and humanity must react.

The time to fight is now.  Humanity versus the Old Ones.  Humanity against the vilest of demons. In a desperate struggle to save themselves from these colossal age-old beasts…

DLS Review:
Let’s be honest, you were sold by Steve Lines’ glorious cover art and the chapbook name alone!  The rest is just a bonus, right?!  Well, if you’re anything like me that’s very probably true.

From these two factors alone you’d probably be expecting a pulp horror deep sea creature feature.  And whilst there’s certainly plenty of oceanic mayhem, there’s far less tentacle terror within the chapbook’s pages than you would otherwise expect.  Rainfall chapbooks specialise in Lovecraft/Ashton Smith mythos, and what we have here is another example of a tale submerged in this Cthulhu mythos.

McIlvain’s story is one which relishes in the elaborate complexities of this mythos.  From the outset we’re dragged deep down into intricate details around the recordings of ‘Bloop’, whom we later learn to be Cthulhu himself.  It’s evident that McIlvain knows his shit when it comes to deep sea sonar, and the mindboggling technical intricacies of submarines.  In fact, a hefty chunk of the chapbook reads like a schooling in submarines and their technology.

Once the entity behind ‘Bloop’ is revealed, the story takes a sudden shift in both its direction and the way in which the remaining portion of the tale is told.  No longer is it all about the sleeping Old One, imprisoned within the underwater city of R’lyeh.  In just a handful of paragraphs, the tale expands tenfold to that of an uprising of angels and demons and the great old gods.  However, rather than a Lovecraftian reimagining of Peter Benchley’s ‘The Beast’ (1991), we instead have something closer to the likes of ‘Godzilla: King Of The Monsters’ (2019); with Cthulhu, Mordiggian and a Hive of Shan, all fighting for their spot in the limelight.

With the big-ass Old Ones and their gruesome minions ramping up the Armageddon factor like its Apocalyptic showtime, McIlvian takes a step back from the close-knit action sequences and instead tells his unravelling story from much further afar.  As you’d expect, this doesn’t help with maintaining the beating pulse of the tale, but instead to a degree it lessens the impact of the danger, taking a step back from the imminent in-your-face close quarters previously delivered.

Then, when the pigeon-sized mind parasites from the destroyed planet of Shaggai (known amongst their friends as ‘The Shan’) arrive, their page time equates to little over a few quickfire paragraphs, with a blink-of-the-eye victory feeling more like a footnote than another factor in the all-out-Lovecraftian war.

Another thing lacking in the short tale is any obvious protagonist for us to side with.  You’ll try latching onto the likes of “Magic ears” Jack the eccentric sonar man, as he easily gets the most airtime of the lot.  However, although he appears in good chunk of the story, it’s not like he rises to the threat much more than smugly proclaiming he can hear a shit load of stuff going on around the sub.

There’s a handful of others who pop up to give their best shot at playing the next hero of the piece, such as Captain Hollister, Admiral Leland Hayes, Lieutenant Sikes, Lieutenant Wilson Fracks and some fella called Simone.  However, this instantly forgettable bunch exist in little more than in name alone.  That said, in a tale of this nature, such an immense lack of characterisation isn’t as big of a sin as it sounds, although it does impact the human element to the whole shebang.

Weirdly, McIlvain’s writing style undertakes a very noticeable change around halfway through.  From intricate and carefully detailed chapters unveiling the existence of ‘Bloop’, once all hell breaks loose, McIlvain starts throwing about all sorts of quick-witted similes and loose ‘chat-like’ phrases.  The highlight (or low point, depending on your perspective) of this being a comparison to our sonar expert Jack and a “cyber-punk Rastafarian” after the fella adorns his body with Elder Signs and a Latin cross.  Furthermore, the writing also gets noticeably sloppier, with frequent typos and poor punctuation creeping into every page.

That said, despite all its obvious literary flaws, it’s still a heck of a fun little read.  The words are crammed on the pages like paper’s a high-cost commodity, and to be fair, you never know what the fuck is around the next corner.  Furthermore, for the sheer depth of Cthulhu mythos exploration, and deity name-dropping, you can’t help but smile like a madman lapping up the piss of a diseased rat.  It may read like it’s taking itself immensely seriously, with elaborate detail after detail bombarding you from all directions.  But I bet you McIlvain had as much fun penning this thing as he did declaring his next literary output was going to be titled ‘Bloop’.

The chapbook runs for a total of 35 pages.

DLS Reviews





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