British author M. John Harrison's The Course of the Heart -- a hauntingly provocative novel about four Cambridge undergraduates involved in an inexplicable occult ritual and its bizarre consequences decades later -- has finally been released in the United States.
Years after the arcane ceremony in a Cambridge field on a hot summer's night, none of the participants can remember what exactly transpired. But their unclear memories can't rid them of an almost overwhelming feeling of foreboding. Pam Stuyvesant is an epileptic haunted by strange, sensual visions. Her husband, Lucas, believes that a dwarfish creature is stalking him and, with the support of his sickly wife, begins to create an alternate Middle Europe steeped in myth and magic as a kind of psychological sanctuary. Self-styled sorcerer/egomaniac Yaxley becomes obsessed with a heavenly -- and terrifying -- transcendent reality. The nameless narrator, whose only consequence of participating in the ritual is a recurring smell of roses, tries valiantly to help his friends escape their torment -- with utterly shocking (and magnificent!) results.
Speculative fiction wunderkind China Miéville (King Rat, Perdido Street Station, et al.) chose The Course of the Heart as one of his Top Ten Weird Fiction novels of all time and described Harrison as "a towering genius of modern fiction." Reminiscent of Aleister Crowley's Diary of a Drug Fiend, this disturbing, poignant, and at times poetic reissue demands to be read -- a supernatural masterwork has been unearthed. Paul Goat Allen