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The Face in the Abyss

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  242 ratings  ·  31 reviews
The Face in the Abyss is a classic from a "golden age" of science fiction. A brilliant tale filled with weird imagination, marvelous writing, horror, beauty, and it may well be called the most "visual" book ever written for the world of fantasy. The Face in the Abyss is a grand book with a grand cast of characters. Visualize a monstrous head that cries tears of gold, ...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published April 1978 by Avon Books (first published 1923)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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Henry Avila
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Three greedy men, desperate foreigners, in South America, have a map, that promises them, fabulous riches ( the usual lost Inca gold), but no money, to finance an expedition. Starrett, their leader, asks Nicholas Graydon , who has the dough, for aid, in Quito, Ecuador, and a big share of the uncountable, presumed, profits. A mining engineer, graduate, of some obscure school, called Harvard (never heard of it either). So Graydon, ten years after leaving the university, needs to make something of ...more
Aug 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Abraham Merritt's "The Face in the Abyss" first appeared as a short story in a 1923 issue of "Argosy" magazine. It would be another seven years before its sequel, "The Snake Mother," appeared in "Argosy," and yet another year before the book-length version combined these two tales, in 1931. It is easy to detect the book's provenance as two shorter stories, as the first third of the novel is pretty straightforward treasure-hunting fare, while the remainder of the book takes a sharp turn into ...more
May 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: lost-world
I was struck by the Lord of the Rings parallels: Nimir, the Lord of Evil, was imprisoned or otherwise diminished by powerful beings in some previous age. Those responsible have passed from the world, and Nimir now whispers from his imprisonment, a shadow of himself seeking corporeality, and is served by the corrupt and foolish as well as fallen beings of his own creation.

While obviously not human, Adana the Snake Mother considers herself a woman foremost, bearing what she claims are a woman's
Pam Baddeley
May 26, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
A lost world fantasy, reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs or Arthur Conan Doyle (The Lost World), featuring dinosaur survivals in a remote area of Peru, cut off from contact with the outside world, but with an early genetic engineering vibe - a race who originated in the South Pole before a polar shift made that area uninhabitable have somehow banished death (while at the same time making it impossible to have children, in order to keep their numbers in check), and have manipulated others into ...more
Completely over the top pulp adventure with dinosaurs and ray guns, force fields and genetic engineering, a Dark Lord and a Snake Goddess. This is great stuff, i'm not a big fan of pulps but this has a more descriptive style than most. Its sort of like half-way between Burroughs and H.P.Lovecraft.
In structure its a bit like the 'Chronicles of Riddick' in that it started out as a short story and years later the author expanded it into other crazyness. Unlike 'Pitch Black' however its the crazy
This was another interesting and different tale for Merritt. It got very fantastical very quickly, and I really liked that, spider people, snake people. And I really liked that the snake queen wasn't evil!
Dr. Strangelet
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Intriguing and frustrating. I can see reading this why A. Merritt's work was so popular back in the day and why it fell into oblivion since then. Where Merritt really excels is creating weird, otherworldly impressions, not so much with the poorly paced, meandering large scale plot. (Which is maybe why I've enjoyed the short fiction I've read of his more.) His the characters are flat even by the standards of generic pulp adventure archetypes, including some not-great portrayals of Indians. But ...more
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another book showcasing the incredible imagination and purple prose of perhaps the greatest of all the pulp writers of the 20s and 30s, Abraham Merritt, born in New Jersey in 1884. He passed away in Florida in 1943 at the age of 59. This one features some of Merritt's favorite themes--a lost civilization, a daring adventurer, a beautiful woman to be won, bizarre creatures, and an apocalyptic conflict between good and evil. "The Face in the Abyss" first appeared in the September 8, 1923 issue of ...more
Keith Davis
Nov 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Merritt wrote fun "lost world" type adventures of sort that H. Rider Haggard once wrote. You can easily imagine Indiana Jones staring in almost any of Merritt's novels. Merritt's books are largely forgotten now; there is not much long term memory in the world of adventure fiction.
Eric N.
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, love-it
A cross between Indiana Jones and The Lost World maybe? Track this down.
Douglas Smith
Dec 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Probably deserves a four-star but golden age SF and fantasy hasn't aged well. Again Merritt spends too much time describing surroundings and objects that still, at least to me, aren't clear in the reader's mind. But the overall setting was interesting and the plot moved well. Good old-time lost world SF&F.
Jim Dooley
If the pulp magazine thrills of Doc Savage or The Shadow set your heart racing a bit faster, this book has more creative elements and larger spectacle than is usually found in them. It is a fun adventurous diversion. If you can’t imagine why anyone would waste their time on such things, then you’d best steer clear of this one.

In a much more extensive tale of the type that would have been found in “Amazing Stories,” an American adventurer is waylaid by a trio of unscrupulous treasure-seekers.
Aug 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
These days I don't let myself pick up random books by authors I have heard talked about. I make sure that I know which books to look for first. But this has been on my shelf for a while, back from the time when I wasn't quite so meticulous and did pick up random books. And getting to the end of this reminded me why I revised by book acquisition strategy!

A lost world adventure story that mingles elements of science fiction with fantasy as the protagonist Graydon discovers a hidden valley in the
Juan del Desierto
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting foray in the weird pulp fiction of the 20's-30's with inspired, strange descriptions albeit simple characters, "The Face in the Abyss" was actually the joining of two tales, and it is quite noticeable.

The main male character Nicholas Graydon does not change very much in any of the tales, although the main female character Suarra goes from an eerie, with a hint of a menacing presence to a mere supporting character that is there for motivates the actions of hero, her importance in
Lord Humungus
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
I couldn't finish this book. It had some imaginative ideas, with some inspiring scenes and settings. But reading it was laborious, with its "purple prose" and uninspired melodrama. I understand that many decades ago when the books was published, it may have been a sweeping adventure, and certainly it inspired other authors whose work I enjoy and admire, but I was not able to get into this book. Usually I'm a black hole for books, but I had to give this one up.

I did love the Rodney Matthews cover
Nov 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
I think I'm spoiled by more contemporary Sci-fi, because I felt like this dragged on a bit. I think it would also be better to read when I was less sleep deprived, and could really focus on visualizing the things he was describing instead of having to re-read the same paragraphs over and over in order to make them sink in.
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kenneth by: My father
This one is a SciFi/Fantasy/Adventure story all rolled into one. Nicholas Graydon is in South America searching for lost Inca treasure, meets Suarra who is the handmaiden of the Snake Mother and who leads him to an abyss where Nimir the lord of evil is imprisoned in a face of gold. The tale takes off from there.
Solid and classic

A solid sci-fi/adventure tale from a time when lost worlds, good and evil faced off, and the hero tested on many fronts was the sought after story to experience. I enjoyed this for the rich prose and learned a lot from the choices of words employed throughout it.
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
The first few chapters can be kind of a slog, but stick with it, it's worth it.
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A. Merritt wrote classic fantasy novels
Timothy Boyd
Feb 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Another good novel by this pulp era Writer. Recommended
Paul Cornelius
The first quarter of this novel is a readable adventure story: a group of men come together to explore the South American jungle in search of riches. There is even some decent character development and nice imagery. Then . . . things completely fall apart. It becomes science fiction/fantasy. It becomes monotonous, with long passages constantly describing rays, mists, caverns, crypts, passageways, pools, flashes, and other vague terms applicable to the hidden world of spidermen, tame dinosaurs, ...more
John Peel
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Merritt had rather a simple way of writing stories: an American adventurer stumbles into a Lost World populated by a Lost Race and some sort of ancient Deity rules/stalks the place. He meets and falls madly in love with a local and then helps to sort out the problem. Merritt never varied this theme much in his novels, but he did ring the changes on the players. This version is particularly good, with some nice images and lots of rampaging dinosaurs to help out when things slow down. An ...more
Kisbali Tamás
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
An epic, evocative, adventure-filled journey of weird science fantasy. There is a strange repetitive back-and-forth feel to the last third of the novel, but it still delivers.
I love how the summary on the back of this book manages to capture key details of the actual plot, and yet is entirely inaccurate. My guess is that it is text from the original publishing, but I wonder why it was kept for this reprint?

This book was a suggestion from a blog that I read, and it sounded intriguing enough to read. I really like this sort of genre of lost worlds and ancient superscience, or at least I like the concept of it. Ancient serpent people wielding technology that is akin to
James Williams
Sep 14, 2009 rated it liked it
early adventure books for me, I really enjoyed discovering A Merritt
Jul 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
I just find his stuff really hard to get through. There's interesting ideas in there, just not for me.
Zantaeus Glom
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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Abraham Grace Merritt, wrote under the name of A. Merritt, born in New Jersey moved as a child to Philadelphia, Pa. in 1894, began studying law and than switched to journalism. Later a very popular writer starting in 1919 of the teens, twenties and thirties, horror and fantasy genres. King of the purple prose, most famous The Moon Pool, a south seas lost island civilization, hidden underground and ...more