Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review: 'The History Major' by Michael Phillip Cash

Michael Phillip Cash has a rich imagination, a gift that comes from being grounded and secure with life as being lived. That he is able from that strong stance to create stories embellishes his evident gifts as a writer. In his debut novel BROOD X and in STILLWELL he was able to create a terrifying tales out of things seen or magnify things seen to become ghastly distortions of credible possibilities. In THE HANGING TREE, he took a step further in the arena of ghosts, and if the reader wants current thought on the subject, the following is an encyclopedic comment: `Ghosts have been a popular subject for millennia, appearing in countless stories, from "Macbeth" to the Bible, and even spawning their own folklore genre: ghost stories. Ghosts are perhaps the most common paranormal belief in the world. Part of the reason is that belief in ghosts is part of a larger web of related paranormal beliefs, including near-death experience, life after death, and spirit communication. The idea that the dead remain with us in spirit is an ancient one, and one that offers many people comfort: who doesn't want to believe that our beloved but deceased family members aren't looking out for us, or with us in our times of need? Most people believe in ghosts because of personal experience; they have seen or sensed some unexplained presence.'

Cash left this world of ghosts for another diversion - his Trilogy THE DARRACIA SAGA - in which he created a sci-fi exploration that for this reader, who has read all of his novels, is a less successful series. Gratefully he returned to a territory he owns - supernatural ghost stories like his THE FLIP. THE AFTER HOUSE carried the aroma of Melville, Conrad, and other writers who have made the sea a principal character. In his WITCHES PROTECTION PROGRAM he leaped into another arena and followed that successful move by offering us MONSTERLAND. Now he marries a lot of the above with THE HISTORY MAJOR and again comes out on top – a blend of history’s affect on us and a reverence for the realm of history as a field of study.

But this is Michael Phillip Cash, remember, so the paranormal aspect is always lurking somewhere near by. Or as he summarizes the plot, ‘After a vicious fight with her boyfriend followed by a night of heavy partying, college freshman Amanda Greene wakes up in her dorm room to find things are not the same as they were yesterday. She can't quite put her finger on it. She's sharing her room with a peculiar stranger. Amanda discovers she's registered for classes she would never choose with people that are oddly familiar. An ominous shadow is stalking her. Uncomfortable memories are bubbling dangerously close to her fracturing world, propelling her to an inevitable collision between fantasy and reality. Is this the mother of all hangovers or is something bigger happening?’

Smart, ever more sophisticated than the last novel, and actually one of this reader’s favorites, THE HISTORY MAJOR firm establishes the importance of this significant American literary figure. You’re there, Michael! Grady Harp, January 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.