cover image The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century

The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century

Jane Webb. Poisoned Pen, $14.99 trade paper (560p) ISBN 978-1-4642-1528-5

The latest obscure reissue in the Horror Writers Association’s Haunted Library series, this sprawling, far-future satirical novel was first published in 1827 and occupies the same literary terrain between the late gothic and early science fiction as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Its plot hinges on the efforts of disinherited British noble Edric Montagu and his mentor, mad scientist Dr. Entwerfen, to reanimate the mummy of the long-interred Pharaoh Cheops of Egypt using a galvanic battery. The experiment succeeds—whereupon the revived Cheops steals the pair’s hot-air balloon (the 22nd century’s most advanced vehicle for transcontinental travel) and flees Egypt for London. After accidentally causing the death of England’s Queen Claudia, Cheops plays the meddling Machiavelli in the selection of the next monarch, setting up Elvira, the queen’s legitimate successor (and love interest of Edric’s brother, Edmund), to fail in favor of her impetuous cousin, Rosabella. Webb (1807–1858) revels in writing Cheops’s stilted, stuffy dialogue as this singularly malignant figure mingles with courtiers and royalty, accepted as a natural extension of their most devious inclinations. Military and court intrigues add to the entertaining, if sometimes overwrought, melodrama. Readers interested in the early evolution of the sci-fi genre should check this out. (Apr.)