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Author Topic: PC228: The Terror Of Blue John Gap  (Read 3167 times)
Ocicat
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« on: October 02, 2012, 09:47:48 PM »

PodCastle 228: The Terror Of Blue John Gap

by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle..

Read by Ian Stuart.

First appeared in Strand Magazine, 1910.


April 17.—Already I feel the benefit of this wonderful upland air. The farm of the Allertons lies fourteen hundred and twenty feet above sea-level, so it may well be a bracing climate. Beyond the usual morning cough I have very little discomfort, and, what with the fresh milk and the home-grown mutton, I have every chance of putting on weight. I think Saunderson will be pleased.

The two Miss Allertons are charmingly quaint and kind, two dear little hard-working old maids, who are ready to lavish all the heart which might have gone out to husband and to children upon an invalid stranger. Truly, the old maid is a most useful person, one of the reserve forces of the community. They talk of the superfluous woman, but what would the poor superfluous man do without her kindly presence? By the way, in their simplicity they very quickly let out the reason why Saunderson recommended their farm. The Professor rose from the ranks himself, and I believe that in his youth he was not above scaring crows in these very fields.

It is a most lonely spot, and the walks are picturesque in the extreme. The farm consists of grazing land lying at the bottom of an irregular valley. On each side are the fantastic limestone hills, formed of rock so soft that you can break it away with your hands. All this country is hollow. Could you strike it with some gigantic hammer it would boom like a drum, or possibly cave in altogether and expose some huge subterranean sea. A great sea there must surely be, for on all sides the streams run into the mountain itself, never to reappear. There are gaps everywhere amid the rocks, and when you pass through them you find yourself in great caverns, which wind down into the bowels of the earth.


Rated PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: October 23, 2012, 12:42:22 PM by Talia » Logged
chemistryguy
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« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2012, 08:13:59 AM »

*CAUTION - RANT AHEAD*


I do hope Sir Conan Doyle's intention was not to feel sympathy for this man, for I had none.  Half of the story consists of his incessant whining about an undisclosed malady.  Perhaps it was a glewiness, sizyness or otherwise viscidity in his bodily fluids.  Maybe it was just something in the aether.  We never find out, or if we did maybe it was at a point in which I stopped paying attention.  Whatever the cause of his distress, it doesn't stop him from taking up spelunking and monster hunting as recreational pastimes. 

When the monster is finally introduced, we see a lumbering giant of a beast that has the audacity to ignore the good doctor not once, but twice.  Maybe that's what drives our protagonist into a killing rage.  The monster doesn't even confront our hero until it has been fired upon and chased back into his/her home.  Can you blame it, really?

Hardcastle later assumes that he was saved from a gruesome death because the bright light he was carrying.  I'd rather like to think that the monster was just trying to slap the stupid out of him.  There is only circumstantial evidence pointing his killing sheep and no recorded attacks on humans.  If it was eating the sheep, what of it?  Everyone likes him some tasty mutton. 

So everyone gathers at the cave entrance, they have a blasting party, the end.

I'm not sure what I should be taking away from this.  If something looks scary, it must be inherently evil?  That it's ok to be an asshole when vacationing in small towns?  I got nothing.

*END OF RANT*

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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2012, 02:01:07 AM »

I liked it. A nice old Conan Doyle monster chestnut. Knowing his other works, I was expecting a dinosaur, and instead got a mutant subterranean cave bear. I'm not sure you would have gotten the physical evidence he mentions from the animal he finally describes, but I liked it all the same.

Thanks again to the Elder Stuart for a great reading.


Half of the story consists of his incessant whining about an undisclosed malady. 

I'm pretty sure that in the prelude we're told he's already dead from TB.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2012, 02:05:48 AM »

Eh, it was kind of like "The Damned Thing" but without nearly as interesting a voice to the narrator or as amusing of a premise.  Still, I do enjoy the older style of writing, with its tendency to meander and indulge in lengthy unrelated asides.  It's refreshing, in a way.
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« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2012, 12:50:44 PM »

I do hope Sir Conan Doyle's intention was not to feel sympathy for this man, for I had none.  Half of the story consists of his incessant whining about an undisclosed malady.  Perhaps it was a glewiness, sizyness or otherwise viscidity in his bodily fluids.  Maybe it was just something in the aether.  We never find out, or if we did maybe it was at a point in which I stopped paying attention.  Whatever the cause of his distress, it doesn't stop him from taking up spelunking and monster hunting as recreational pastimes. 


I thought he said it was bronchitis at some point early on, but yeah he was a bit of a whiner.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2012, 12:04:45 PM »

I quite enjoyed this one. I love Doyle's arcane writing style, especially the meandering asides that Scattercat refers to. To put that in context, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens are two of my favorite authors. Wink

As for the story itself, I suppose that he can't really be blamed for his skeptical reaction to the local lore and subsequent curiosity to see the caves for himself. However, having gotten out safely once, how dumb was he to go back a second time! He is not Buffy, nor is he even Rick O'Connell, so he had no business trying to take care of it himself. In this respect, I ultimately prefer stories like those of Carnacki or Balfour and Meriwether.
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2012, 12:37:13 PM »

I enjoyed this one.  I got the impression that we weren't supposed to like the protagonist, but rather to laugh at complaining and hypocritical ways.  It's very possible that's not what Doyle intended, but that's what I got out of it.  What I found especially comical is that at the beginning of the story he is denouncing those who believe in the monster based on circumstantial evidence as superstitious idiots.  Then he sees some circumstantial evidence (which I find most likely to be hallucinations brought on by sensory deprivation) and after that point he denounces the unbelievers because they're too stupid to see that the monster does exist.  Also comical to me was his supposed ailment, while he is gallavanting around in damp caves and hunting monsters.  The truth, to him, is whatever suits him at the moment, and that shifts as the story goes on.  Which throws the entire narrative into doubt, as he appears to be an unreliable narrator. 

I found it quite funny.  Entertaining as the sort of story one might hear at a bar after you've bought a friend a few drinks.  You know the story's BS, even though he claims it's the truth, but it's entertaining to see how exactly the BS will end up.
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merian
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« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2012, 12:25:15 AM »

Yes, I liked it, too. It wasn't necessary to like the protagonist, and in a way, there wasn't much surprise in the turns the story took. What I liked most about Podcastle running it was that it was such a nice reminder of the patterns of behaviour that were just assumed as normal, manly and honourable, and the class structure in the England of just about 100 years ago, and also the assumptions that we have or haven't, or that the contemporaries have or haven't. For the latter, of course, the protagonist's tuberculosis would have all but spelled out in bright letters -- clearly today's reader have a harder time deciphering this bit, and that it was the reason for the protagonist's stay in the countryside.
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« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2012, 01:14:48 PM »

Eh, it was kind of like "The Damned Thing" but without nearly as interesting a voice to the narrator or as amusing of a premise.  Still, I do enjoy the older style of writing, with its tendency to meander and indulge in lengthy unrelated asides.  It's refreshing, in a way.

I found it to be more reminiscent of The Beast in the Cave, though not significantly better or worse. I tend to draw more parallels between The Damned Thing and The Dunwich Horror. I'm going with more plot elements, as opposed to mood.

I'd posit that The Damned Thing is the best of all the bunch mentioned for its combination of mood, action, and succinctness.
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« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2012, 03:44:41 PM »

The two Miss Allertons are charmingly quaint and kind, two dear little hard-working old maids, who are ready to lavish all the heart which might have gone out to husband and to children upon an invalid stranger. Truly, the old maid is a most useful person, one of the reserve forces of the community. They talk of the superfluous woman, but what would the poor superfluous man do without her kindly presence?

Of all the stories I've heard, none of them praised the single woman in such backhanded way that made me both applaud and shake my head. If I was single, I would probably be more outraged if some guy said that to me. Then I would think, "Wait...that was kind of sweet..." Then I'd get outraged again. Then I'd be all confused.

After that, the rest of the story was meh...
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childoftyranny
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« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2013, 08:47:51 PM »

The truth, to him, is whatever suits him at the moment, and that shifts as the story goes on.  Which throws the entire narrative into doubt, as he appears to be an unreliable narrator. 

I think that sums it up nicely, I didn't really think we were meant to doubt him, but thinking back to the story, now that I'm not working I can see that perhaps he was just hallucinating, or there was some sort of leaked gas in the cave, or he was deeper into his TB than were led to believe, lots of possibilities as to why he really was just imagining, since no one more reliable ever did see it.
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