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Ellen Datlow (Ed.) - Lovecraft's MonstersEllen Datlow provides us with a collection of stories based on Lovecraft's original myths, and the universe of associated legends which has grown up around it. It's her second collection of such stories, and I will not even attempt to enumerate all the other collections she has edited over the years – if it says Datlow on the cover, you know you're in for an interesting and well-chosen selection of stories on the topic of her choice!

 

The ones in Lovecraft's Monsters, the book at hand, have been previously published between 1977 and 2013, and are thus rooted in a variety of periods, flavours, styles, and movements – but always based on Lovecraft's classic horror, if not his style of writing (which has its benefits – just read Charlie Stross' Hugo-nominated Novella Equoid for more on that). Contributors include Neil Gaiman,  Caitlín R. Kiernan, Elizabeth Bear, and many further, well-known names.

The book is illustrated with renderings of the monsters by John Coulthart, a World Fantasy Award-winning artist.

 

H.P.Lovecraft was a master, not just when it came to creating unusual and inventive monsters and entities, but also for his ability to conjur up not just an atmosphere of dread, but of enveloping the reader in this. Datlow says in the introduction, "I had three goals in choosing stories: the first, as usual, was to avoid pastiches; the second was to use stories that have not been overly reprinted in the many recent mythos anthologies; third, I wanted to showcase Lovecraftian-influenced stories by at least some authors not known for that kind of story."

 

With this varied and recommended collection I would say that she succeeded at the above – my main gripe, besides the obvious one that not all stories worked as well for me as others, was that the artwork was too fiddly for my taste. Not bad or wrong in any way, it's just that I prefer my eldritch horrors starker, simpler, darker. But, as we all know, tastes vary, so these might be the Shoggoth's knees for you, of course!

 

The book contains some extra materials besides the stories and illustrations – the structure is as follows:

  • Foreword by Stefan Dziemianowicz
  • Introduction by Ellen Datlow
  • Short stories, all save the final one previously published
  • Monster Index by Rachel Fagundes
  • Contributors (capsule biographies of all concerned)

 

This is, as I would expect from any good collection (and Ellen definitely has the experience to put one of those together!) a mix of approaches, writing styles, and closeness to the actual topic.

I don't think there are any badly written contributions here, not on Ellen's watch! Nevertheless, not all stories, all writing style worked well for me. Below is a list of stories in the collection, what they are about, and my thoughts on them. Your mileage will vary, for the obvious reasons. If you'd rather go into this book without pre-conceptions then skip the below.

 

Overall a collection of interesting and well written stories I can recommend to any fan of the genre.

 

 

Only the End of the World Again - Neil Gaiman

A Werewolf in Innsmouth, just as the stars are right and the Great Old Ones rise again...

 

Bulldozer - Laird Barron

Wild West story - Pinkerton detective going after ex-Circus performer who has gotten into Demonology...

A disorienting, damaging, delirious trip down the rabbit hole. In the world of the Elder Gods, there is not good or evil, everyone who is touched is spoiled...

Not your standard derivative Lovecraft story - definitely in line with Datlow's claim to aim for new approaches.

 

Red Goad Black Goat - Nadia Bulkin

Horror story set in a Goat Estate in Western Java - and given the title, this is evidently about Shub-Niggurat. If this were not in a Lovecraft-themed collection I would not have linked it to that body of work at all, though, and it would have been a well-written, albeit run-of-the-mill horror story.

 

The Same Deep Waters as You - Brian Hodge

All Innsmouth inhabitants showing weird traits have been rounded up in 1928, and have been kept in a secret facility since then. Now something has changed, and the agency in charge brings in Kerry Larimer, a 'psychic animal whisperer' to find out what and why...

An interesting and, within the confines of what I've read in the Lovecraft universe, a rather unusual take on the Innsmouth/Dagon myth.

 

A Quarter to Three - Kim Newman

Innsmouth story, again – this one set during the night shift in a 24 fast-food-fish place. Short, sweet, and to the point. Top stuff.

 

The Dappled Thing - William Browning Spencer

Classic Victoriana/Stampunk adventure story, resplendent with explorers in the jungle, hidden tribes worshipping monsters, crazy mechanical inventions - the works. The Lovecraft connection is, yet again, tenuous, but who cares about this when you have that much fun?

 

Inelastic Collisions - Elizabeth Bear

'Fallen Angels' - from some time-controlling Elder God? 'Risen Angels' - from a Deep One? A strange, and strangely compelling story, albeit, at least at this length, a strangely superficial one. Interesting possibilities abound ...

 

Remnants - Fred Chappell

The Old Ones have risen, and taken over Earth. Some human remnants are hiding out in the wilderness - the story follows one such group: mother, son, autistic daughter (who can see/feel dangers and probes from the Old Ones), and their dog.

All this is played out against the backdrop of a galactic conflict between the Starheads (aka the Old Ones - inimical to all life save their own) and the Radiance Alliance (aka the Great Ones - saving remnants of civilisations savaged by the Old Ones).

Marvellous stuff, this would deserve its own novel, if not a series if he can maintain that level of quality over a longer stretch.

 

Love is Forbidden, We Croak and Howl - Caitlín R. Kiernan

A love story between a girl from Innsmouth and a Ghoul. A completely unsuitable match, of course. But. Young Love. So sweet.

 

The Sect of the Idiot - Thomas Ligotti

Disorienting story around belonging (or not), about being comfortable in your environment, and about what lurks below the surface you're comfortable on. And about the Blind Idiot God Azathoth, apparently (but, like a number of stories in this collection, this appears a non-essential if not incidental connection here). Horror of the refined kind.

 

Jar of Salts - Gemma Files

Poetry for H.P. Lovecraft's birthday. This did not do much for me, I am afraid to say. Your tastes might vary, of course.

 

Black as the Pit, from Pole to Pole

Frankensteins Monster, on an epic trip through the hollow Earth. With Lovecraftian monsters as well as literature and historical reference points thrown in. This feels like the blueprint for a novel...

 

Waiting at the Crossroads Motel - Steve Rasnic Tem

Crossbreeds assembling, and awaiting the return of their parents, whilst their humanity falls away from them... not as scary as this sounds, not as scary as this could have been. Mildly unsettling only.

 

I've Come to Talk with You Again - Karl Edward Wagner

The price we pay for the deals we make. Much more unsettling than the previous one, with a dream-like quality, and a defeatist feeling of inevitability running through it.

 

The Bleeding Shadow - Joe R. Lansdale

The story of a Blues musician who sold his soul for a Robert Johnson record he did not know existed, of the creature who comes to collect on the bargain, and of his desperate means of keeping it at bay. The Lovecraft connection is, yet again, incidental (but not jarring or obviously added on), and this is a cracking and disturbing story, Lovecraft or not. Engaging, engrossing, and much recommended.

 

That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable - Nick Marnatas

The Great Old Ones have risen, and the world is ending. The story plays out as 3 people sit, talk, and drink Whiskey outside a cave, whilst waiting for the world to end. This left me indifferent, for some reason.

 

Haruspicy - Gemma Files

More poetry by Gemma Files. Still not to my taste...

 

Children of the Fang - John Langan

Classic story, in both topic, tone, and quality. A blind girl discovering what her grandfather found in a cavern in the desert, so long ago. This is the longest story in the book, and connected into the extended Lovecraftian universe through the use of the Serpent People, as added to the mythos by Robert Howard.

 

 

More Ellen Datlow

 

Title: Lovecraft's Monsters 

Editor: Ellen Datlow

Artist: John Coulthart

Reviewer: Markus

Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net

Publisher:  Tachyon Publications

Publisher URL: http://www.tachyonpublications.com

Publication Date: April 2014

Review Date: 140517

ISBN: 9781616961213

Pages: 370

Format: ePub

Topic: Horror

Topic: Lovecraft

 

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

 

Peter Watts – Maelstrom

 

Thomas Pynchon - Slow Learner

 

S.P. Somtow – I Wake from a Dream of a Drowned Star City

 

Iain Sinclair - Radon Daughters

 

Lavie Tidhar - Central Station

 

Doris Lessing – The Sirian Experiments

 

Thomas Pynchon – Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Ian Sales – Adrift on the Sea of Rains

 

Peter Watts - Blindsight


Andy Weir - The Martian

 

Ken MacLeod - Cosmonaut Keep

 

Doris Lessing - Shikasta

 

Liz Williams - Empire of Bones

 

Charles Stross - The Atrocity Archives

 

Somtow Sucharitul – Starship & Haiku

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