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Eric’s Book Report: Lovecraft’s Monsters (2014)


★★★★ out of ★★★★★
The Cthulhu Mythos gets a spin from current horror writers, in the way that Lovecraftian tales should be told, in an anthology. There’s a lot of variety packed into this compilation and features some notable writers, including Neil Gaiman, John Langan, and Joe R. Lansdale.
Edited by Ellen Datlow

Stories:

  • “Only the End of the World Again” by Neil Gaiman
  • “The Bleeding Shadow” by Joe R. Lansdale
  • “Love is Forbidden, We Croak and Howl” by Caitlin R. Kiernan
  • “Bulldozer” by Laird Barron
  • “A Quarter to Three” by Kim Newman
  • “Inelastic Collisions” by Elizabeth Bear
  • That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable” by Nick Mamatas
  • “Red Goat Black Goat” by Nadia Bulkin
  • “Jar of Salts” and “Haruspicy” by Gemma Files
  • “Black as the Pit from Pole to Pole” by Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley
  • “I’ve Come to Talk With You Again” by Karl Edward Wagner
  • “The Sect of the Idiot” by Thomas Ligotti
  • “The Dappled Thing” by William Browning Spencer
  • “The Same Deep Waters as You” by Brian Hodge
  • “Remnants” by Fred Chappell
  • “Waiting at the Cross Roads Motel” by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • “Children of the Fang” by John Langan

Audiobook narrated by Bernard Clark

Lovecraft’s Monsters is an anthology that lives in the proud tradition of the Arkham House collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories and novellas. Lovecraft’s legacy was picked up by author disciples Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, Frank Belnap Long, Robert Bloch, and others who built upon the mythos established by the eccentric man from Providence.

This book explores the full range of the offerings from Lovecraft. The favorite subject would be Deep Ones and Innsmouth tales, which makes plenty of sense because it is probably the most grounded and tangible of all of his works. But we get plenty of shoggoths, ghouls, Great Old Ones, and a Hound of Tindalos or two. Surprisingly, the most famous of all of his creations, Great Cthulhu, plays only a background role here. But make no mistake, this work is cosmic to the core.

I purchased the audiobook from Audible, and it’s a beat of a listen. You WILL get your money’s worth. Twenty-one stories and thirteen hours of run time. If you are doing a road trip from coast to coast, it will keep you occupied the whole time. Bernard Clark’s has the master narrator’s ability to slip between a whiskey tinged drawl, to a sharp Asian pidgin, to a salty New England rasp.

There were many great stories in here, and only one real clunker (The over-wrought “Black as the pit from Pole to Pole”) and the anthology does a great job changing the type, theme, and pace of the stories. These are my favorite stories within the Anthology:

Red Goat Black Goat

A teenage Indonesian girl, Kris, becomes a Nanny for a wealthy plantation owner, that is haunted by a Faustian curse on their farm, trading the success of their farm with a horrific promise. Her patron and her two children warn her to be careful with the goats, and not to interfere with “the Goat Nurse” who is unnaturally protective of the children. Kris would come to know that this Goat Nurse is a being of unfathomable dark desires, and the ability to destroy whole towns. This story is chock full of uniquely horrific visions. Those knowledgeable about Lovecraftian lore would associate this story with that of the elder God Shub Niggurath, the Black Goat of a Thousand Young.

THE BLEEDING SHADOW

One of two “Crossroads” stories in the anthology. This period piece of horror noir plays out with the tough guy narrator investigating the disappearance of his favorite prostitute’s Alma Mae’s brother, Tootie. He finds Tootie in a squalid fleabag hotel in a bad stretch of town. Tootie has been holding off a monstrous inter-dimensional creature by playing blues music on his guitar until his fingers bled, and when his fingers were too raw to play, he spun a record playing the same cacophonous music. When the music stops, the veil to the other world gets thin, and the monster gets in. Lovecraft meets the Delta Blues and the Devil’s bargain.

CHILDREN OF THE FANG

Rachael, a young blind woman, and her curious brother Josh unravel the mysterious secrets that her brusque and bullying geologist grandpa has hidden away, from his expeditions in the Middle East. There is something awful and in that locked freezer in the basement. Josh and Rachael slowly discover what might be in that container by playing a series of old audiocassettes they uncovered from a musty trunk at Grandpa’s house. Family legends are shown to have a sordid reality, and whatever is in that freezer is not of this world, and probably not dead.

THE SAME DEEP WATERS AS YOU

This is the most contemporary of the tales. Carrie is an animal psychic, the type of person who has an uncanny ability to know what animals are thinking, and has turned that skill into a television show. Homeland Security has enlisted her on a top secret mission in Puget Sound. She has been brought to a prison that houses a community of Deep Ones, humans who are devolving into fishy people, the complete community of hybrids rounded up in the 1920’s Innsmouth raid, and transferred to the opposite side of the country. The Deep Ones no longer speak in any type of language, and they need Carrie to decipher what they are up to, as the creatures have been displaying some very strange behavior all at once, and they need to know if there is any danger. The answer? YES.

REMNANTS

A trip to the near future, maybe? Humans have been pushed to the brink of extinction. Since the Great Old Ones arrived on Earth, they have been destroying human civilization, and are in the process of terraforming the planet to a non-Euclidean version to their liking. A small family unit of Moms, Vern, Echo, and their dog Queenie are scavenging in the wilderness, lying low. Echo is a young girl who is autistic, which also has made her into a psychic medium, but has to communicate abstractly, unable to explain in complex language. And somebody, or something, has found her, and it is unclear whether they come bearing friendship or destruction. But as the Old One’s shoggoths scouring the wilds for any human stragglers, the family is going to have to take their chances.

THE DAPPLED THING

The Dappled Thing captures the wondrous futurism of H.G. Wells and the adventurous camp of the pulp rags of the 1930s. An intrepid crew of British adventurers launch an expedition into the Amazon to find a scientific expedition that had headed into the jungle years before. Onboard, the party brought along the peak of steampunk engineering, a spherical contraption with cabled tentacles serves as a wondrous machine intended to dominate whatever indigenous peoples they might run into, but in this ode to Joseph Conrad, the adventurers encounter something beyond their comprehension, and more than a match for their metal monstrosity.

ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD AGAIN

And though it is the first story of the compilation, I leave the most famous Author for last. It’s a pretty short story compared to most of the others, (about five minutes of story) but Gaiman presents what he loves best, modern folk myth, and merges it with cosmic horror. A man who is a werewolf has moved to Innsmouth. There, the fishy and suspicious denizens are planning to make this newcomer into part of a heinous ritual. Gaiman has a knack for terrific dialogue and vivid descriptions, and this is a terrific and fun first entry, which will hook you into the book immediately.

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