For all its popularity as the granddaddy of cosmic horror stories, the Lovecraft Mythos proves to be a surprisingly difficult subject for some authors to nail. Requiring a very exact blend of unknowable horror, science fiction, fantasy and inevitable doom, many sadly end up simply using the tropes or trace elements over fully embracing the source material. It’s one thing to have Cthulhu in your book, but it’s another entirely to not just turn him into Godzilla. On this from The Madness of Cthulhu – Volume Two is hit and miss. Some nail what’s required for a tale of this mythos, while others try to play around with the source material to mixed effect.
The most noted difficulty stems from the era in which each book is set and how well each story fits Lovecraft’s infamous purple prose. Many opt for an unconventional approach given the subject matter, either setting the era in modern day or even the far future in many cases. In some situations this proves to be surprisingly effective with Greg Bear’s contribution serving as a scarily effective apocalyptic logbook left by doomed stellar explorers, while others such as Dead Man Walking and A Crazy Mistake sadly prove to be misfires. This is mostly due to both authors styling their tales in an almost laid back and overly informal manner, with the apparent objective being to emulate humour rather than horror.
For every book which pulls off the horror angle perfectly such as The Autonomy Lesson, The Hollow Sky and – most surprisingly given the author – 20,000 Years Under The Sea, another will fail to convey any real horror. The end result, as such, is an extremely mixed read which is more worth a library rental than it is as a full price purchase, and can easily leave you skipping half the book.
If you like some of the authors involved, or appreciate the idea of a take on Lovecraft which breaks away from the norm, this might be one for you. Otherwise, stick to some of the bigger success stories and adaptations of the past few years.
THE MADNESS OF CTHULHU – VOLUME TWO / AUTHOR: JONATHAN MABERRY, GREG BEAR, KEVIN J. ANDERSON, ALAN DEAN FOSTER, WILLIAM F. NOLAN, AND OTHERS / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 23RD