The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The story is told in the form of a retrospective account prepared by archaeologist Gilbert Austin shortly before his disappearance. In 1994, Austin learns that his old friend, psychologist Karel Weissman, has died, apparently by suicide. Now the executor of his friend’s scientific papers, Austin is distracted by developments in his archaeological work—a distraction to which, he realizes later, he owes his life. He travels to Turkey to discuss the dating of Hittite figurines he discovered; another scientist, Wolfgang Reich, thinks the figurines are thousands of years older. He and Reich become friends, and together they pursue Reich’s methods of electronic dating at the site of Karatepe. One night, alone in the ruins, Austin succumbs to feelings of loneliness, insignificance, and the contingency of the human grasp of reality, but he rallies when he realizes that the human mind has infinite potential. As he then concentrates on inner space, he momentarily senses the movement of something alien within his mind.

At this point, Reich’s electronic detector finds titanic blocks of an ancient wall two miles beneath the surface. A probe detects an inscription on one block naming Abhoth the Dark, one of the “great old ones” in H. P. Lovecraft’s horror fiction. Worldwide publicity of the find inspires international support to dig a tunnel to the blocks. Long before it is completed, however, Austin realizes that all of this is simply a red herring. He...

(The entire section is 584 words.)