Thursday, November 17, 2011

Off the Rack - New Lovecraft

Even before Lovecraft's death, other authors have been applying their talents to the cosmic horrors of HPL's imagination. From Howard to Derleth, to today's masters, there is a long list of those who have drawn influence from Lovecraft, or even written explicitly within his mythos.
I have written about some of the books inspired by his works, and to be honest the list is endless as some draw inspiration from his writing style, his sense of the unknown and uncontrollable terror of the world, and others just using creepy lovecraftian creatures. But I don't often get a chance to stop and read any of the works being put out that relate directly to Lovecraft. Many years have gone by since reading books like Lumley's Titus  or Dreamland series. And it isn't often enough that I get a chance to pick up any of the great anthologies put out each year. So this week I attempted to right that wrong by picking up a few of the new released I found based out of HPL's mythos.

Normally I wouldn't recommend the anthologies in the Mammoth series. Some of their comic anthologies haven't been bad, but often it comes down to quantity rather than quality. I wasn't sure about the new massive 400+ page Book of Cthulhu out from Night Shade Books. But after diving into the first few stories, my mind was quickly changed. I usually have to be in a certain mood for the fast changing pace of short fiction, but this really did hit the spot. I was quickly taking in the stories of writers I was familiar with, but then surprisingly continuing on with the remaining stories. While not every story worked for me (I'm looking at you Michael Shea), they were far from most of the terrible Lovecraft fiction I have read in recent years (see the final entry of this post).

If I enjoyed The Book of Cthulhu quite a bit, I loved The New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird from Prime Books. Though three or four of the stories from the other anthology are also carried here, there is a lot more new stuff as well. With great entries from some of my favorite contemporary genre authors including Neil Gaiman (seriously dude we need another novel from you soon) to Cherie Priest and China Mieville. If you have to decide between the Book of Cthulhu and The Recent Weird, my choice would have to be with the latter. A tough call to make, but there is some really fun stories in here. And while I have one or two left to go, it still has to receive my pick.

The last book however cannot receive my endorsement. I am a huge fan of the work at Fantasy Flight Games, and I love that they have helped renew an interest in Lovecraft's work. Arkham Horror is one of my favorite board games of all time. But the recent move into novels is still a strange one to grasp. Drawing a lot from the game as well as the odd direction Chaosium took Lovecraft with their Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, the new novel Ghouls of Miskatonic falls rather flat for me. Just like reading many roleplaying game novels, they often feel forced and read like a game session. This may work for half the cliched garbage in the Forgotten Realms series, but when it comes to Lovecraft it just doesn't work. What should be works of terror and unstoppable horror turns into run of the mill adventure without a lot of the excitement. Like trying to take Lovecraft and turn it into an action/suspense film but failing to make a decent Lovecraft or action story. It isn't so terribly written that it can't be read, but as a fan, it just isn't Lovecraft. Despite taking every opportunity to connect it to every other Lovecraft story ever written, it fails even as a lose web trying to connect lovecraftian fiction together. Though the titular ghouls act nothing like the ones in HPL's writing, I can see this being an enjoyable game intro, or a night of entertaining role-play. But as a novel built to satisfy my cravings for suspense and appetite for story. Sorry, no.

Happy Reading.

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