Fellstones | Ramsey Campbell | Rougeski Book Review

Fellstones, by Ramsey Campbell, is an interesting combination of cosmic and folk horror that takes place in Great Britain.

The story begins with the protagonist standing alone at the top of a building.  He is at peace until someone comes to fetch him.  “Someone wants you down here, Paul.”  This clever element of foreshadowing sets the stage for mystery, or perhaps even better, danger emanating from below.  Then to add to the tension, the voice adds, “She says she knows you.  Knows your name.”  As the legends go, knowing the true name of something or someone confers ownership.  Does this visitor have some sort of hold on Paul?  He treads down the stairs to the book shop where he works, and the adventure begins.

Why did Paul change his name?  Could he be hiding from something or someone?

The protagonist, Paul Dunstan, is a person who has not reached his full potential.  He is college educated, has a profound knowledge of classical music, and perfect pitch.  He admits he has dreams of owing his own business, but instead, he appears to be hiding in someone else’s bookstore, where he is exploited by the owner.  He is in a relationship devoid of depth, loyalty, and true intimacy.  It’s as if he is sleepwalking through life.  Why is he hiding in this unfriendly, defeatist situation?

Paul’s past has finally come calling.  His real name is Michael Staveley.  He must return to his hometown of Fellstones to face his past and to attend the Fellstones festival.  When he gets there, the community raises their glasses to Paul, saying, “Here’s to maintaining our community.”  Something just isn’t right.

The tale begins slowly, carefully, but gains speed and complexity when Michael begins to research the history of the town, a magician who once lived there, and the seven fellstones that supposedly fell from seven stars.  As he stumbles toward his future while trying to come to terms with forgotten past and traumatic childhood, readers will come to root for him.

As always, Campbell’s writing, especially the realistic dialogue, is a pleasure to read.  His style is consistent, especially with his use of metaphors.  As in the great and wonderful The Wise Friend where Campbell introduces readers to the fantastic feminist surrealism of Leonora Carrington, in Fellstones he creates a motif via a repeated use of references to classical music.  It would be interesting to find that any of those classical works harmonize with the tenor of the plot line.

Fellstones comes highly recommended as a fine and traditional example of cosmic horror that builds the intensity at a leisured pace where the past and present must come to terms with each other.  In addition, due to the fact that the townspeople lust after a return of the glory from their collective past, Campbell offers an element of folk horror.

Will Michael overcome childhood trauma and become victorious, or will he end up like the storied straw man, sacrificed by the community.

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Book Title: Fellstones

Book Author: Ramsey Campbell

Book Format: Paperback

Publisher: Flame Tree Press


Date published: September 13, 2022

ISBN: 1787587576

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