Wednesday, 7 July 2021

The Hand of Kornelius Voyt

Wyrd Britain reviews Oliver Onions' 'The Hand of Kornelius Voyt' published by Valancourt Books.
Oliver Onions
Valancourt Books 

When Peter Byles’s father dies shortly before the boy’s thirteenth birthday, the young orphan is sent to live at the Victorian Gothic mansion of his father’s friend, Dr. Kornelius Voyt. Peter arrives at the dreary house, surprised to find that he sees nothing of the enigmatic Voyt, instead passing his time in lessons with a young German tutor. But it soon becomes clear to Peter that these lessons are only preparations for something much more sinister that Voyt intends to teach him. Voyt, unable either to hear or speak, has learned to compensate for his disability by developing extraordinary powers of the mind, powers which allow him to communicate telepathically, control the wills of others, and even inflict pain on those who anger him. Voyt has a terrifying vision of the world’s future, and he is determined to use Peter as a pawn in his inscrutable plans. 
When he's orphaned at age 12 Peter Byles is sent to live with his father's enigmatic friend Kornelius Voyt, a deaf mute with the uncanny ability to communicate telepathically and to remotely influence the actions of others.  Under his roof Peter is tutored in sign language and German but beyond this he is instructed only to observe and report on those he meets as all the while Voyt slowly indoctrinates his young ward into his misanthropic world view.

Mostly existing off page Voyt is a menacing but ultimately pathetic character whilst Peter is a brat denied the chance to grow beyond adolescent petulance and wilful cruelty.  They are a perfect pairing that'll damn them both.
Written with Onions' characteristic intensity the book follows Peter as he both embraces and rebels against his forced destiny and Onions is masterful in teasing out these steps in the young man's development.  Unfortunately when the end comes it all fizzles out a little and the story ends in a very human and undramatic manner.

For those, like me, who know Onions entirely for his superlative short stories this proved to be a fascinating read but one that didn't quite have the power of his shorter tales.

Buy it here - UK / US.

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