Book Review – Nexilexicon by Keith Anthony Baird

nexilexicon

At the time of writing this review, Nexilexicon has no reviews or ratings on Goodreads, and that is a great shame because this book really is excellent. When a story can feel epic, yet flies by in no time at all, you know you’re reading something special.

The story is presented in two parts, with both feeling very different from each other but still sharing that strange, other-worldliness.

It’s a sci-fi tale, incorporating elements of horror and good old adventure on the high seas.

Things kick off, and continue for half the book, with the story of a Dutch aristocrat sailing to the Amazon in 1847. This was unexpected, what with the futuristic title and cover, as well as the blurb. But I wasn’t complaining.

It’s somewhat of a slow-burner, but without the waffle. The book really feels like it’s building to something monumental, and thankfully, it doesn’t fall short when it really matters. If you’d have told me this was written say, a hundred years ago I’d have believed you. The sense of the time is presented perfectly and realistically.

Sander van Straten, this rich Dutchman I mentioned earlier, has always dreamed of exploring the world, and not simply inheriting and running his father’s various lucrative business ventures. He feels almost a calling to visit the Amazon, yet cannot recall exactly what he’s drawn to or why. It’s as though it’s pre-programmed in to him, or something.

But his instincts, and the support of his family, allow him to set off on his long and arduous journey. His trip across the seas is vividly descriptive and life on board is brought to, well, life. But things take a dark turn almost immediately into this trip. The strange occurrences that befall the crew are genuinely creepy. It appears as though this whole mission is cursed as the ship is caught in a violent storm, then a swarm of locusts force the crew below deck in fear of their lives, before a strange marking is found deep in the bowels of the ship. It’s weird, seriously weird.

But against all odds, the crew finally make it to their destination and with the help of the local guides, set off into the harsh, unforgiving rainforest. Finally Sander can realise the purpose of his mission. And when he does, things go from unnervingly scary to a full-on scarefest.

At around the halfway mark, we are transported to the swinging sixties, where a top secret Government agency discover secrets recorded in his journal by the now-late Mr van Straten. Suddenly we’re thrown into a story of cover-ups and information not intended for the eyes of man.

Details involved in this cover-up were hinted at in the first half, but it’s only later that the importance of van Straten’s discovery becomes apparent.

It’s part Lovecraft, part Stranger Things, and all great. Now in the present day, a multi-million dollar research team attempt to bring strange creatures from another dimension and study them in their research lab. But these beasts are a highly intelligent species, one hinted at in van Straten’s journey to the Amazon. How could a tribe in the jungle of South America have knowledge of beasts older than man?

The skill at which the story jumped from almost one extreme to the other was expertly handled. As the tale changed halfway through I was a little saddened as I’d really got to know the crew of the ship and could almost taste the sea air while I read.

But I needn’t have feared, as when Government agents begin assassinating those who ‘know too much’, and a certain employee of the Government, Doss, a completely heartless bastard if ever I saw one, the tension and action is taken up several notches.

I don’t want to go to Spoilersville with this one, but would mention the ending is action-packed and gore-soaked, just the way I like it. The insidious terrors from the first half are magnified, and when you finally realise just what is going on, and why our plucky hero Sander went to the Amazon in the first place, it’s a real cosmic horror head-fucky moment.

This was a superb book and I’d urge all fans of cosmic horror, and even fans of supernatural pirate adventures to check it out. And pronto!

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