The Moon Pool Critical Essays

A. Merritt


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The publication of “The Moon Pool” in the June 22, 1918, issue of All-Story Weekly aroused such interest that the entire letters column in the August 17, 1918, issue was devoted to reactions to the story, with the headline proclaiming “ The Moon Pool’ Sensation.” The result was that the cover of the February 15, 1919, issue of that magazine was an illustration for the first installment of “The Conquest of the Moon Pool.” The book edition, in which the two stories were combined into a single narrative, was published later that year and was greeted by a reviewer for The New York Times as the work of “a writer possessed of a very unusual, perhaps one might call it extraordinary, richness of imagination.”

A. Merritt’s reputation with the critics, like that of his influential contemporary Edgar Rice Burroughs, has never equaled his popularity with readers. His highly ornate, decorative style, rich in adjectives, is now considered to be dated, and his reputation, according to Brian Aldiss in his Trillion Year Spree (1986), “lies about him like a shattered cut-glass totem pole.”

The Moon Pool and Merritt’s subsequent works, cast in the same decorative mold, undoubtedly benefited from the enormous popularity of H. Rider Haggard and the lost race novel. Where Haggard’s fiction is grounded in a precise, detailed landscape, an Africa that at the time was exotic and unfamiliar to the readers...

(The entire section is 484 words.)