Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, Volume 2

The weakest of the lot here are two by Brian Lumley: “The Sister City” and “Cement Surroundings”. As usual, one part of your mind, while reading, is noting which Lovecraft stories and ideas Lumley is recombining this time — and he believes in reusing all of Lovecraft. Yes, these are pale imitations of his model and provide only a tiny bit of Lovecraft’s cosmic paranoia, but they’re still more engaging than August Derleth’s work.

Plotwise, the teenaged Robert Bloch’s 1934 effort, “The Shambler from the Stars”, doesn’t have much to offer. However, there is the fun of a thinly disguised Lovecraft who meets a grisly end. The master returned the favor with his last story, “The Haunter of the Dark”, which has one Robert Blake meeting a horrible end after uncovering a fearsome alien artifact in a Providence church. Bloch’s 1951 story “The Shadow from the Steeple” completes the trilogy and shows how much Bloch developed as a writer in those 17 years. There’s no imitation of Lovecraft’s style here, but Lovecraft and his characters from “The Haunter of the Dark” show up and Cthulhuian horrors are effectively moved to the atomic age. Bloch also makes nice use of Lovecraft’s poem “Nyarlathotep”. Another Bloch work, “Notebook Found in a Deserted House”, uses an old Lovecraftian standby — a journal desperately documenting horrors closing in on its writer. But here the narrator is a type Lovecraft never used: a twelve year old boy telling us about the monsters in the woods around his aunt and uncle’s farm.

J. Ramsey Campbell aka Ramsey Campbell started out with Lovecraft pastiches set in England, but the style of his “Cold Print” isn’t Lovecraftian nor is its unseemly, vague linking of sexual taboos with Cthulhu entities. Here a teacher is lead to a mysterious London bookstore where something a mite stronger than bondage and discipline porn is offered.

James Wade’s “The Deep Ones” brings Lovecraft into the sixties with a John Lily-like researcher studying some decidedly sinister dolphins, a Timothy Leary-like professor warning against it, and a telepath with some family ties to Innsmouth. It’s quite good.

Surprisingly an even better story is Colin Wilson’s “The Return of the Lloigor”. Surprising because Wilson’s earlier attempt at writing a Mythos story, The Mind Parasites, was so bad. Wilson uses his erudition to create a plot mélange of Welsh crime, Mu, Arthur Machen, H. P. Lovecraft, the Voynich Manuscript, the Kabbala, Aleister Crowley, and Charles Fort. Mixed in is some delightfully absurd metaphysics about the sinister and congenitally pessimistic Lloigor. This clever story may use some of the themes and furniture from Lovecraft and his work, but it’s no accident that the hero is a Poe scholar because the tone is that of the latter author in his hoaxer mode.

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

 

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