My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There are some writers who can consistently give me the creeps. Ramsey Campbell is one. And Jonathan Aycliffe is another, in NIAOMI’S ROOM, THE MATRIX and his other great ghost stories of the ’80s and ’90s.
THE TALISMAN proved to be no exception, although it’s not a ghost story as such. This is more along the lines of THE OMEN or THE EXORCIST, and has echoes of both amid its depiction of an ancient evil brought out of the Middle East. Where this surpasses genre conventions is in the background; Aycliffe is an expert on the history of the region, and it shows in the accumuation of small but significant details that are slowly built up, layer upon layer, until the full extent of the evil is revealed.
It’s a strangely old-fashioned book though. It’s twenty years old now, but feels even older, and reads like a throwback to those aforementioned classics of the ’70s. That’s no bad thing though, and I had a great time with it.
It’s taken me a long time to get round to it; I have the Ash Tree Press limited edition hardcover, and it’s been on my shelves all these years unread. I’m glad I finally got to it, and it’s given me an urge to revisit his other works again, which is no bad thing.