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Medusa's Web

by Tim Powers

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2111191,247 (3.99)9
"From the award-winning author of Hide Me Among the Graves, Last Call, Declare, and Three Days to Never, a phantasmagoric, thrilling, mind-bending tale of speculative fiction in which one man must uncover occult secrets of 1920s Hollywood to save his family.In the wake of their Aunt Amity's suicide, Scott and Madeline Madden are summoned to Caveat, the eerie, decaying mansion in the Hollywood hills in which they were raised. But their decadent and reclusive cousins, the malicious wheelchair-bound Claimayne and his sister, Ariel, do not welcome Scott and Madeline's return to the childhood home they once shared. While Scott desperately wants to go back to their shabby South-of-Sunset lives, he cannot pry his sister away from this haunted "House of Usher in the Hollywood Hills" that is a conduit for the supernatural.Decorated by bits salvaged from old hotels and movie sets, Caveat hides a dark family secret that stretches back to the golden days of Rudolph Valentino and the silent film stars. A collection of hypnotic eight-limbed abstract images inked on paper allows the Maddens to briefly fragment and flatten time--to transport themselves into the past and future in visions that are both puzzling and terrifying. Though their cousins know little about these ancient "spiders" which provoke unpredictable temporal dislocations, Ariel and Claimayne have been using for years--an addiction that has brought Claimayne to the brink of selfish destruction.As Madeline falls more completely under Caveat's spell, Scott discovers that to protect her, he must use the perilous spiders himself. But will he unravel the mystery of the Madden family's past and finally free them. or be pulled deeper into their deadly web?"--… (more)



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Medusa's Web is a mind-bending story about two siblings that have to uncover occult secrets about their family. Secrets that goes back to the 1920's Hollywood.

Scott and Madeline Madden are summoned to Caveat, a spooky crumbling mansion, after their Aunt Amity's suicide. It's been years since they have been back there and the old mansion brings back memories. Their cousins Claimayne and Ariel are living at the mansion and they are not too happy that Amity apparently wrote a new testament one hour before she died that requested that they stay a week at the place and if they do will they inherit the place.

Medusa's Web is not like anything else I have read. Mind-bending is the perfect way to describe the book. Claimayne and Ariel Maddens use eight-limbered abstracted images inked on paper to be able to transport themselves into the past and the future. Scott and Madeline by mistake looked at "a spider" when they were young when they found envelopes with spiders after their parents had disappeared. That has affected them throughout their lives. It's a spider they should never have looked at.

It's hard to explain this book without giving the plot away. I found the book deeply fascinating although sometimes it was also quite mind blowing confusing to read. I especially liked the link to the past to the 1920's and I loved Rudolph Valentino's part in the story. I wish I could write more about it, but I will settle with that it gave the book a bittersweet tone, especially towards the end of the book.

The "spiders" was a bit confusing at first, I didn't read the blurb before I read the book. I just gave it a glance. I don't want the read something that gives the story away. So, it took some time for me to really grasp what was going one. It didn't help that the "body-jumping" sometimes was a bit abstract explained, especially since Scott and Madeline didn't know what they were doing at first, and what the spiders really did. I was intrigued, confounded and absolutely charmed by the book and I will definitely read more from Tim Powers!

Thanks to the publisher that provided me a copy of the book through Edelweiss!

Read this review and others on A Bookaholic Swede ( )
  MaraBlaise | May 19, 2019 |
Another one-sitting read from the great Tim Powers.

I've been a fan since reading THE DRAWING OF THE DARK in 1980, and over the years since he's never failed to astonish and entertain me with his skill and imagination. This is no exception.

Medusa's Web initially sets itself up as a Gothic horror, with its rambling old house and disfunctional- and weird - family members, but Powers quickly spins things off into fractured time streams, plots within plots and a mystery dating back to 1920's Hollywood. A word of warning though - if you're an arachnophobe, it's probably best to avoid this one, as there are spiders here that'll haunt your dreams.

As ever, it's all heady stuff from Powers. There were a couple of places where I felt the complications of the mythos he built, and the amount of exposition needed to keep the plot going, was in danger of bringing the whole thing crashing down - but Powers is a master juggler, and keeps all the balls in the air just long enough to speed us along to the finale.

A very enjoyable way to spend the day. ( )
  williemeikle | Dec 22, 2018 |
This is really a 3 star book, but it kept my attention, so I bumped it up a star.

Tim Powers is one of those writers that is hit or miss, but whatever the quality, it is done spectacularly. The book is all over the place - jumping from time to time, with really no rhyme or reason. Add a family that doesn't like each other having to come together for a will when the matriarch, a great aunt, unexpectedly commits suicide.

The "Spiders" really don't make a lot of sense - the author makes them whatever they need to be for the story, so getting a handle on the rules isn't possible. The side story of what happened to Scott and Madeline parents didn't add anything to the main story, but it did muddle the main plot line. And when little Madeline falls in love with an adult at the tender age of eight, was inappropriate.

However, I finished the book, and while not great, it was fun. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Oct 27, 2018 |
Ok so I love Tim Powers. "Last Call" is one of my favorite books ever. Full-stop.

But I was not...as impressed with this outing.

First off there was a lot here I liked. Powers is amazing at weaving (heh heh pun intended) these "secret histories," he's so good at making them feel real. It never seems reductive or ridiculous to run into famous figures in Powers' books. Of course Rudy Valentino was involved in mystical occult practices!! And that gift alone makes Powers' books worth reading.

But the problem with this book is the modern-day characters are just really...lacking. The dialogue is flat and seems more of a way to get the readers up to speed with the plot than actual people talking to one another. It ends up reading like:

"Hey remember when we were kids and we saw this weird thing happen?"
"Yes I do, I wonder how it relates to current weirdness."
"Huh I don't know. Also there's this REALLY BIG PLOT POINT that I'm going to tell you about right now"
"Wow that's an interesting fact, I wonder what is going to happen next?"

It just feels really forced in some ways, and I feel like Powers didn't spend enough time on character motivations; in this book, characters make huge decisions based on certain things but those certain things are just barely mentioned, or mentioned in passing without any real depth given to them. It made the reading really...hard to get through at times because the overarching idea of the novel is really interesting but the way it's played out is just...lacking.

So overall not one of my favorites of Powers' books but definitely worth a read if you enjoy the author.
( )
  ElleGato | Sep 27, 2018 |
Hrm. It’s well-written, but it suffers from mostly unlikeable characters and the initial confusion of what’s going on lasts a lot longer than it should. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Aug 19, 2018 |
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