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Graham Petrie Seahorse

Academic Press Canada, 169pp
Reviewed by Douglas Barbour, Ph.D.

Graham Petrie, who teaches at. McMaster University, has written a first novel which is a subtle blend of Kafkaean and Borgesian fantasy. Seahorse is a gripping and disturbing exploration of another world of dreams and nightmares.

Petrie's nameless narrator has come to a seaside village utterly cut off from contemporary life. The villagers are apparently afraid of The Institute nearby, which may influence their dreams or steal their souls when they're out frolicking on a nearby island at night. 'Seahorse' is the card game they play every day, with everchanging rules and face cards whose images, also changing, show scenes from last night's dreams or of future events: orgies, rituals, and violent deaths.

Petrie immediately plunges us with his narrator into the mysterious centre of all this. The narrator tries to remain an objective observer and to reason things out, but reason is helpless in this maze of dreams, superstitions, and emotional storms. Slowly but surely he is netted in a phantasmagoric series of encounters: sexual, vibrant, psychological, and religious; and so are we by Petrie's sure stylistic performance. Seahorse will haunt your memory.

[Reprinted from New Canadian Fandom, Vol 1 #8, Oct 1985, and the Toronto Star]

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