Review: Lovecraft’s Monsters / Author: Ellen Datlow / Publisher: Tachyon / Release Date: Out Now
Horror icon H.P. Lovecraft may have been a virtual unknown during his time as a jobbing writer in the early 20th century, but his influence has since grown to levels of true cultism. This is evidenced in works such as Lovecraft’s Monsters, an anthology which shows that his Old Ones aren’t going anywhere fast.
Where many Lovecraft-inspired short stories are content to merely imitate or pastiche the great man’s work, Lovecraft’s Monsters heads in a different direction. Editor Ellen Datlow has collected a series of genre-bending tales which do a little more than simply copy that which came before. With an all-star host of names such as Neil Gaiman, Joe R. Lansdale and Kim Newman bringing their considerable talent to the table, it’s a varied and eclectic collection, more than worthy of the mighty Cthulhu.
There are eighteen entries here, most of an impressively high standard. It opens, unsurprisingly, with Gaiman’s Only the End of the World Again, which also happens to be the least good story in the book. A grisly werewolf tale, it boasts typical Gaiman wordsmithery, but lacks his usual wit. A shame, since his Sherlock Holmes pastiche A Study in Emerald proves that he can write Cthulhu well. Still, the only way from there is up, and the rest of the stories just keep on getting better. Brian Hodge’s lengthy The Same Deep Waters as You is the best of the lot, although there’s serious competition throughout.
Kim Newman’s A Quarter to Three is short but sweet, while there’s poetry in Gemma Files’ Haruspicy and Jar of Salts. Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley provide the book its most memorable and ambitious story in Black as the Pit, From Pole to Pole. A Frankenstein sequel and Cthulhu crossover, it sees Victor’s creation wander (literally) into Lovecraft territory during his post-Frankenstein travels. Inventive, soulful and exciting, it would make a great full-length novel or movie. But since we can’t even get a Mountains of Madness adaptation off the ground, you’d be better off not holding your breath for that one.
There’s a lot to love in Lovecraft’s Monsters, an anthology which is both faithful and inventive at the same time. Unafraid to take risks and snazzily illustrated, this collection is proof that the Cthulhu cult remains as strong as ever.