Editor Jim Turner has compiled a real page turner in Cthulhu 2000. His anthology of short stories based on the works of horrorist H.P. Lovecraft is a dark gem, and of superior stuff. Although they all have the coppery tang of the eldritch, the tales aren't strictly in the horror mien. Some of them are an alloy of horror with a sci-fi, humor, detective, vampire or even romance slant.
The very best are truly horrible, in the most complimentary sense of that word. "His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood" (Poppy Z. Brite), "The Adder" (Fred Chappell), "Fat Face" (Michael Shea), "The Unthinkable" (Bruce Sterling), "Love's Eldritch Ichor" (Esther M. Friesner) and "On the Slab" (Harlan Ellison) are the keen standouts, but all the rest, practically, are of almost equal quality. However, there are a couple of tales that do not deserve to be amongst this company, and the tome would have been better and tighter by their absence. Certainly, at 398 pages, there's no lack of material.
In "His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood," Poppy Z. Brite deftly invokes a vampric flavor to themes of decay and the forbidden, his writing style as ornate and refined as rococo and in the real spirit of the master. Fred Chappell's "The Adder" draws the dangerous and inimical from the ordinary in a tale delightful for its originality. Bruce Sterling also slings some fresh ideas around in "The Unthinkable," melding modernity and necromancy in a brief, effective story.
Horror gourmands will find a good meal here, but Cthulhu 2000 should have a bit of life outside its traditional genre, for the writing is strong, imaginative and entertaining. --Tamara Hladik
From Kirkus Reviews
Anthology of reprints by 18 modern masters of the bizarre to honor horror mandarin Lovecraft's weird-aliens Cthulhu mythos, long mined by HPL followers for gold scatterings. Cosmic fantasist HPL regarded himself, as editor Turner tells us, as an ``indifferentist,'' and any fellow human being as ``only another collection of molecules.'' Thus, this total materialist loved moments of horror that transcended the natural order. As an underpinning to wonder, he placed on earth an alien species called the Cthulhu, superintelligent creatures too hideous even to look at. Appropriately, in T.E.D. Klein's ``Black Man with a Horn,'' they really are out of sight and appear only as something like a scuba diver with flippers who looks in through your midnight window, or perhaps as a black man with a horn, John Coltrane, say, while Klein's narrator is an elderly horror writer on the downslope, nowadays mentioned in print only as a follower of his old friend ``Howard'' (HPL). Kim Newman's immensely amusing spoof of Hollywood private eyes, ``The Big Fish,'' is set three months after Pearl Harbor: ``The Bay City cops were rousting enemy aliens . . . . It was inspirational, the forces of democracy rallying round to protect the United States from vicious oriental grocers, fiendishly intent on selling eggplant to a hapless civilian population.'' The Cthulhu horrors come disguised as a naked (but scaly) movie jungle-queen and her squiddish baby. Other outstanding entries: Poppy Z. Brite's ``His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood,'' set in New Orleans and something of a satire on Anne Rice; F. Paul Wilson's ``The Barrens,'' in which a monster writhes like a bunch of albino snakes; and Roger Zelazny's ``View of M. Fuji,'' a Japanese death odyssey: a dying woman tries to destroy her husband, whose spirit has entered cosmic cyberspace. The Newman story alone is worth the price. The rest is just a seething mass of obscene gravy. Gobble it up. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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