Saturday, July 9, 2011

John Buchan’s The Gap in the Curtain

Insofar as he is remembered at all these days, John Buchan is remembered for his spy thrillers like The 39 Steps. He also wrote tales of the supernatural. Whether The Gap in the Curtain is a supernatural tale, or science fiction, or horror, is difficult to say. It’s certainly interesting.

A brilliant but possibly slightly unbalanced scientist discovers a means of lifting the curtain for a moment and gaining a glimpse of the future. This discovery allows six people to see, for a brief instant of time, a page from a newspaper from one year in the future. The book then follows the life of each of the six people up to that date a year in the future, and examines the way they deal with the knowledge they have gained. The trick to it is that what they each see is an isolated fact, taken out of context. It can enlighten, but it can just as easily mislead. They know one thing that is going to happen, but they don’t know how and why it will happen.

The knowledge turns out to be surprisingly dangerous. Several of the participants in the experiment are politicians, who try to use what they’ve found out to advance their careers. One is a financier who hopes to make a killing on the stock market. Others discover more personal information, and are forced to re-evaluate their attitudes towards life and love and death.

My copy was published as part of the Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult back in the 70s, and while it isn’t what you’d expect from an occult thriller or horror story it’s an intriguing book full of odd political speculations and fascinating psychological insights.

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