The Elder Ice: A Harry Stubbs Adventure (book 1) by David Hambling
Ebook review #1
The Elder Ice by David Hambling is a delightful little Lovecraftian novella that gives us a taste of the world – and mind- of Harry Stubbs. Now I don’t generally read short stories as they tend to leave you wanting, and that’s something Hambling definitely accomplishes. An introduction into the universe is what this felt like, wetting our toes.
I enjoyed the investigative aspect of the novel, it helped build the mystery and suspense, learning more about not only the ‘Shackleton Case,’ but also our protagonist. I appreciated the depth he had and his struggle to remain meticulous and observant in his new profession. The author’s take on the Lovecraft mythos was interesting as well. I am quite interested and learning more about where he will take that. The grammar was great; the word choice was odd at times, though I think it helped set the scene. I definitely enjoyed some of the descriptions. They helped bring some scenes to life.
My biggest complaint was the rather large info dump that was the conclusion/reveal of what really happened to Shackleton and what he found. It felt awkward and somewhat ham-fisted, especially considering the elegance of the setup to that point, to just throw it all on the readers in a couple pages felt rushed. Certainly, this is not a mystery novella, but it does have mystery elements. I would have appreciated allowing the reader to connect more dots, or at least revealing more of this info gradually instead of all at once.
I won’t say the ending was exactly unexpected, but it did leave me unsatisfied, partially due to the length, but also due to how things worked out. If I had to summarize it with a statement, it would probably be: “Welp, that happened.”
Overall, a good read and worth the small time investment. I hope his next book is longer, I will be reading it for sure.
The Elder Ice by David Hambling
Ebook review #2
The tip of the iceberg looms in The Elder Ice by David Hambling. This no-frills introduction to the world of Harry Stubbs is as brutal and practical as its protagonist, an erstwhile boxer and hired muscle for a solicitor’s office. The pacing suits the noir detective motif, comfortably couched in a Lovecraftian pseudohistory.
This story feels like part of a much bigger world and it does a great job of setting us up readers to want more. The style is suited to readers who enjoy pulp serials like Dr. Who, Hellboy, or The Dresden Files. With a languorous build-up of history, investigation, and espionage without really exploring the sense of mystery that it deserves. The first half of the story takes its time to set up a living, breathing world, reverent of tales of adventure and exploration. Hambling’s scenes set in the local tavern are lovingly described and genuinely welcome the reader in detail while the cold winds blow in the streets beyond.
The story pulls readers in up until the very end that rushes upon us and frantically ends with a climax that unfolds too quickly for its own cleverness. A standard for the genre, the story is genuine and quite enjoyable but needs space to breathe, needs more stirring.
Harry Stubbs is presented initially as relatable and thoughtful, self-conscious of his own shortcomings, but it’s unclear how and Edwardian-era boxer and son of a butcher owns such a robust vocabulary, this ends up feeling jarring amidst the otherwise tight and thoughtful dialogue.
The world is crisp, the story is direct and effective; The Elder Ice rings true to century-old detective novels or strange tales in general, with some rough edges that don’t really slow it down until the abrupt and expected end that leaves us wanting more in a good way.
Overall rating: 7/10
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