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The Flames: A Fantasy Science Fiction Novel by Robert Hichens

The Flames: A Fantasy Science Fiction Novel by Robert Hichens

The Flames


The story takes the form of a long letter written by one old university friend to another. The recipient of the letter, known only as "Thos" (a college nickname, short for "Doubting Thomas") introduces the strange document, from a friend known only as "Cass" (another nickname; short for "Cassandra", an allusion to the friend's apparently prophetic abilities). Cass is regarded as a harmless eccentric by his friends, but Thos notes that his prophecies and preoccupations, wild as they may seem, have a habit of coming true. This also notes, ominously, that Cass's letter "bears the address of a well-known mental home"


Cass's letter, which forms the bulk of the novel, describes his contact with a bizarre form of alien species. Whilst holidaying in the Lake District, Cass is drawn to a lump of rock, which he pockets and takes back with him to his room. There, he is driven to place the rock on the fire, and this action releases a bizarre form of alien life - a living flame, which has been trapped in the rock for millennia.

The flame reveals itself to be one of an ancient alien race who originated in the photosphere of the sun. Solar catastrophe has distributed the ancient race throughout the planets of the solar system, and the flame-beings can only be woken by intense heat. The flame and Cass discourse at great length about typically "Stapledonian" topics - the life of the spirit, the role of the individual and the purpose and meaning of the universe. Over the succeeding nights, they develop a strange friendship, in which Cass reactivates the flame in his heart, (which slumbers in the cold rock of the firebrick) with a hot coal fire.


Author Robert Hichens
: Publication Date: 1899

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