Review #7: Ambient Morgue Music by Richard Howard

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Jan 30, 2010 in Reviews

Published by: Weird Tales, Fall 2009

The Story:

In this story, a music reviewer named Ed receives mysteriously wonderful lo-fi music by CD every month, entitled Ambient Morgue Music, which is accompanied by a photograph of a dead body and a handful of dirt. After weeks of searching, he’s finally able to track down the artist, who as it turns out, lives just up the road near Phoenix Park. But things start getting weird for Ed when he realizes that he’s never been to this park, Dublin’s largest, even though it’s so close by. Come to think of it, nobody he knows has ever talked about going to the park. Ed puts these qualms aside to investigate so he can find the source of the fantastic tracks he’d been listening to.

Ed arrives at the park, disturbed to see a colossal monument that he’d never noticed before. He’s met by Dessy, a normal-looking guy who takes him into primitive village that is anything but. When Ed gets closer, he notices that although they live in tin shanties and roast deer on a spit, the locals appear to fit squarely into the mid twenty-first century with their clothing and tech gadgets. It’s here that Ed meets Sean, the true composer of the songs Ed has enjoyed.

The Craft:
SPOILERS

Ambient Morgue Music is one of the stranger concepts that I’ve come across in a while. The story turns the purpose of the Olympics on its head — the event that’s supposed to bring people across the world together is tearing families and communities apart. Those displaced from their homes during the construction of the stadium and parking garages have made a new home of Phoenix Park, but apparently the influx of tech devices during the Dublin Olympics caused “some kind of gravity field” that left all but three of their people permanently trapped there for the past twenty years. Yes, there’s a little hand-wavium going on here, but I liked the concept and the characters, so I bit.

Sean shows Ed where he makes his music (the reptile cages at the deserted Dublin Zoo), and more importantly, how he makes his music: by taping the sounds of gas expelled from dead bodies and mixing them into grooving tunes on his computer. Ed is too dumbfounded to have a reaction, but he snags a new demo CD of some experimental dead giraffe beats, so who is he to question anyway? Ed goes home, listens to the music, and writes a piece (this story) about his adventure.

The voice is solid and smooth throughout, definitely an easy read. And I love the idea that there could be a whole-nother city within a city that no one notices. Only thing is, I don’t understand why Ed was able to leave if there was the gravity field. For me, the fact that this key logic bit wasn’t fully addressed kept me from feeling completely satisfied with the story. It could have added a little tension to the latter half of the story, but overall it was enjoyable, gross, and fun.

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