BOOK REVIEW: THE MADNESS OF CTHULHU / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
There is something wonderfully reverential about The Madness of Cthulhu, an anthology of fourteen new and two rare (including one from Arthur C. Clarke) short stories that take H. P. Lovecraft’s novella At the Mountains of Madness as their inspiration. While reading, it is apparent that all of the contributing authors have a deep, respectful admiration for the source text but one question is as unavoidable as a persistent Shoggoth; who is this book for?
With a foreword by Jonathan Marberry and edited by S. T. Joshi, one thing is clear from the beginning; this is a compilation of weird tales by the fans, for the fans. If approaching from a position of no knowledge at all there is a degree of impenetrability to the stories, with the majority demanding and assuming some understanding of Lovecraft’s text. There are references a plenty to Elder Ones and their malevolent former slaves, the indescribably evil Shoggoths, that the casual reader may not fully appreciate. Perhaps the inclusion of the original novella, or even a synopsis might have proved beneficial?
That said, this is a collection of highly interesting, fantastical works of horror fiction that perfectly channel the macabre soul of Lovecraft’s tale of ill-fated expeditions, and his entire mythos for that matter. The sheer variety on offer is enough to satisfy, with some tales taking a first-person narrative style so common in Lovecraft’s own work while others directly include the dark abominations he created, unleashing them on an unsuspecting, modern world.
Each story is as cosmically dark as the rest, with Diana of the Hundred Breasts by Robert Silverberg and Heather Graham’s Cthulhu Rising leading the way, but the aforementioned question still remains. Perhaps its future lies as a gift for the uninitiated, a companion piece to the original masterpiece that has inspired so many. Whatever the case, this is an anthology that deserves to be read and is worth taking the time to seek out regardless of your knowledge of Lovecraft’s work.
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