The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories
19 August 2013 4 Comments
Author: H.P. Lovecraft.
Summary: This selection of stories ranges from early tales of nightmares and insanity such as ‘The Outsider’ and ‘The Rats in the Walls’ through the grotesquely comic ‘Herbert West—Reanimator’ and ‘The Hound’, to the extra-terrestrial terror of ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, which fuses traditional supernaturalism with science fiction. Including the definitive corrected texts, this collection reveals the development of Lovecraft’s mesmerising narrative style and establishes him as a hugely influential—and visionary—American writer.
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 1.5/5
Review: Disclaimer: I could not actually finish this book. I usually squirm uncomfortably at the idea of not finishing a book, but i was not enjoying this. I think it helped that it is a book of short stories, so i didn’t actually stop reading mid-story. I finished one, with four left to go, and just could not bring myself to continue.
It started off badly in the first story. This line, in particular:
Grotesque beyond the imagination of a Poe or a Bulwer.
This is still the one line of all that that annoys me the most. It’s lazy. He’s saying, “Imagine something horrible that Poe or Bulwer would write about, well, this is worse.” How about describing it yourself, mate?
This laziness was not an isolated incident, but is the only one where he actively uses other authors’ imaginations. No, his most frequent crime, for me, was being unable to actually describe things. The whole mood or flow is ruined by scattered and repeated insistence that things are “indescribable,” “unnameable,” “unutterable” or “unmentionable.” Occasionally he’d make the effort and declare something “hideously indescribable” or “gruesomely unmentionable.” It got to the point where i was physically cringing and rolling my eyes about it. He’s supposed to be setting a mood, creating an atmosphere and transporting me to another world of horror and suspense. Instead i was left wondering what the hell was so bad, because i can’t imagine what he won’t describe!
It wasn’t all entirely bad, though. ‘The Outsider’, ‘Herbert West—Reanimator’ and ‘Cool Air’ i actually thoroughly enjoyed. While ‘The Hound’, ‘The Rats in the Walls’ and ‘The Festival’ were also good. They all had interesting subject matter (my three favourites all being about the living dead, i’ve only just realised), genuine suspense, adequate descriptions and mood setting and they didn’t drag on too long or get bogged down in insignificant details. I would easily recommend these six individual stories.
Unfortunately a few very good stories can not make up for a book filled with a majority of bad ones.
The last straw came with the title story. Cthulhu, i was so disappointed. It’s told second and third hand by a man after going through his grandfather’s notes (and notes of notes) and acquiring a written account of an encounter with Cthulhu from a now-dead sailor. It’s a very convoluted and overly complex way to tell a story. What really bothered me, though, was the narrator’s hypocrisy… or stupidity, it’s a fine line. He claims he made his discoveries regarding Cthulhu by accidentally piecing information together, that he hopes no one else will do that same and that he will never knowingly supply a link to this information. He then goes on to explain the connections he made, what exactly Cthulhu is and what it could mean for mankind, and puts his account into the file with all the information he used to draw these conclusions. Yes, that way no one else will ever figure it out.
Some of the explanatory notes told me that Lovecraft was highly influenced and inspired by Edgar Allan Poe… i just don’t see it myself. Poe was a master as creating an atmosphere in a few short lines (even if he was the opposite of Lovecraft in his insistence of over describing things!), whereas i felt little to no atmosphere in Lovecraft’s work. Poe wove interesting tales with twists and surprises, Lovecraft prattled on and never really got anywhere before ending on anticlimaxes.
Sorry, but my new nickname for him is Lovecrap.