The Way of the Worm is the final book in Ramsey Campbell’s Three Births of Daoloth trilogy. With this posting I’ve reviewed them all here at Horror Delve. Book one, The Searching Dead ( https://horrordelve.com/2016/12/24/the-searching-dead-by-ramsey-campbell-review/ ) takes place in 1950’s England where we are introduced to a young Dominic Sheldrake and his two best friends, Bobby and Jim, as they uncover the dark secret of their teacher Christian Nobel who’s started his own church which claims to be able to bring back the dead. The second book, Born to the Dark ( https://horrordelve.com/2018/01/07/born-to-the-dark-by-ramsey-campbell/ ), advances us some thirty years into the future. Dominic is married to his wife Leslie, and they have a son named Toby. He again encounters Christian Nobel and his daughter Tina who are behind a group called Safe To Sleep which presents itself as a program designed to help children who have problems sleeping, but they are actually twisting things to their own diabolical ends.
The Way of the Worm finds Dominic dealing with the death of his beloved Leslie and the strained relationship that’s developed between he and Toby, who has joined the church led by Christian, Tina and her son Christopher (Toph). Toby, his wife and their young daughter all implore Dominic to join as well, but his distrust of the Nobels is too strong. Despite this, he does attend one of the sessions in hopes of finding a way to extract his son from the church. There he’s given a reptilian-shaped icon to wear on his wrist which can be used to open his mind to reveal unsettling visions of the future.
Dominic continues to work against the Nobels, feeding information to his old friend Bobby, a successful writer with a large following. She uses it to expose damaging intel to the public, bringing legal difficulties to the Nobels. The third member of The Tremendous Three, retired police officer Jim, joins in to assist as well. Their task proves to be far more deadly than they could ever have imagined. This book is full of so many interesting encounters, such as a return of the cryptic police officers Farr and Black, only this time they are descendants of the ones who appeared in the second book, that I can’t go into all here.
For me, the highlight is the unrelenting creepiness of the Nobel family and how they increasingly seem to be merging into one entity. There’s a wonderfully eerie scene when Dominic takes a late night phone call from his rivals but can’t tell which one is speaking, leading him to envision them all clustering around the phone, speaking as one.
Upon completing each chapter, I found myself wanting to continue on – to see what twist was coming next. This is especially true for the final third of the book, which was spectacular! I loved the bizarre entity Dominic finds himself pitted against. It was so weird and nightmarish. Lovecraft would be awed by it. I can’t recommend this series enough, particularly knowing how it all culminates here in The Way of the Worm. It has already cemented itself as one of my favorite horror novels by Ramsey, or anyone else for that matter.
I very much enjoyed the first two books in the series, but I found this one stunningly amazing. A sense of creeping dread oozes from every sentence, and the ultimate reveals don’t disappoint. It’s interesting to note how the number three plays into everything. The series is a trilogy. There are three powerful members of the Nobel family in Christian, Tina, and Toph at the head of their religion called The Church of the Eternal Three. Theyare being opposed by Dominic and his two friends that form The Tremendous Three. I give this series my highest possible recommendation!
Reviewed by Matt Cowan