The Pure World Comes: Rami Ungar
Reviewed by Priscilla Bettis
Ungar’s The Pure World Comes takes place in 1894 in England. Shirley Dobbins rises from a lowly maid to a competent scientist under the tutelage of her employer, Sir Joseph. Shirley and Sir Joseph envision a perfected society achievable through science. Unfortunately, the pair’s results are anything but pure and good. And with Shirley’s physical deformity, she might end up part of the “Pure World” experiment herself.
Ungar’s characters entertain and frustrate and frighten the reader, and each character is unique in his or her societal status, personality, backstory, and motivation. My favorites are Lucinda, the beautiful and spoiled woman of status and not of means; Sir Joseph because he’s a mad scientist driven by understandable reasons even if we don’t agree with them; and Shirley, of course. With Shirley’s work ethic and bravery, it’s easy to cheer her on.
Speaking of the mad scientist trope, Ungar puts it to good use. The secret laboratory, the frightening noises, the unkempt, isolated scientist, his failed experiments (oh, the poor piglet!)… It’s all so mysterious and spooky.
Jack the Ripper is another character I enjoyed. He mostly lurks in the background, but he adds a menacing plot thread to the book. It feels natural to the story and the setting, not at all gimmicky on Ungar’s part.
Ungar’s story got me thinking about human imperfections: unequal leg lengths, a lazy eye, deafness. Is it always right to fix imperfections? How about a child with tendencies toward violence, or a woman with harmless but odd behavior, or a man with a crooked nose? Where do we draw the line between playing doctor and playing God?
So far my review makes The Pure World Comes sound like historical suspense an Victorian-era drama, or that the scary bits are only about failed science experiments. Don’t get me wrong. Ungar’s story falls squarely within the horror genre with its frightening violence and (no kidding) a haunted toilet.
While I enjoyed this story, I would have loved a big twist. Not to say there aren’t any fun surprises, just no jaw-dropping moments.
There’s a scene that contains a misunderstanding about the physics of vacuums. But if readers aren’t into science they might not notice.
And finally, the title doesn’t work for me. Thematically, it makes sense, but it neither catches my attention nor sparks my imagination. But it’s just a title. The book itself is a solid story.
I first read Ungar several years ago, starting with his novel Rose. He’s been steadily turning out short stories, serial novellas, and the like. His writing just keeps getting better and better. It’s no surprise, then, that The Pure World Comes is my favorite Ungar story. Gothic horror fans will love it. Ungar is one to watch.
The Pure World Comes
Shirley Dobbins wants nothing more than to live a quiet life and become a head housekeeper at a prestigious house. So when she is invited to come work for the mysterious baronet Sir Joseph Hunting at his estate, she thinks it is the chance of a lifetime. However, from the moment she arrives things are not what they seem. As she becomes wrapped up in more of the baronet’s radical science, she realizes something dark and otherworldly is loose within the estate. And if left unchecked, it’ll claim the lives of all she holds dear.
Priscilla Bettis is an avid horror reader and passionate horror author. She’s also an excellent swimmer, which is good because vampires are terrible swimmers. Priscilla shares a home in the Northern Plains of Texas with her two-legged and four-legged family members.
Amazon author page: Priscilla-Bettis