Cthulhu 2000
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2004
_Cthulhu 2000_ is (as one might guess from the title) a collection of recently written short stories set in the universe created by H.P. Lovecraft, none by Lovecraft himself but rather by a variety of different authors. Editor Jim Turner provides a nice introduction to the Lovecraft's writings, drawing attention to two themes in the Cthulhu mythos. One theme is that though Lovecraft is in many ways a horror writer, he did not see the universe in terms of some epic, Biblical struggle between good and evil. Turner writes that a conventional horror writer "presupposes an actively malicious universe;" Lovecraft saw the universe in his stories instead as profoundly indifferent, that the interaction of the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology are so universal and eternal a phenomenon that they are far beyond any meaningful relationship with any species so transient as man, located as he is on such an insignificant planet. Man is a speck, nothing at all, against the horrors in a true piece of Cthulhian fiction. The best he can hope for from the universe is profound indifference. Lovecraft's monsters aren't evil, they just exist, they are almost elemental forces.

A second theme, in many related to the first theme, is that the universe is vast and probably unknowable by man. Some of the horror from Lovecraft's writings comes from the "finite mind grappling with infinite reality," the results of which are often insanity and/or death. Lovecraft himself said humans live on a "placid island of ignorance" amidst "black seas of infinity," and that mankind was not mentioned to voyage far. Man is better off not knowing the true horrors that lurk in the shadows.

So how well do the eighteen short stories in this volume realize these themes? Pretty well overall I think. Many of the stories depart from Lovecraft's typical mode of writing; most of his short stories were tales (memoirs really) told by men after the fact - sometimes dead or insane at the end of the story - rather than actually accounting events as they happened, often lacking dialogue. Though a few of the stories are in Lovecraft's traditional style, most are not. To me this is quite refreshing.

Several stories to me were exemplary, centering on a seemingly normal person, perhaps an investigator, perhaps not, in what looks like a normal, mundane, mortal world, one that is revealed to be hiding untold horrors unknown to most of humanity. _Black Man with a Horn_ by T.E.D. Klein was an excellent page-turner (I wished it was longer though it was already almost a novella in length), an intriguing tale that wove together elements of Malaysian folklore, a retiring missionary, an elderly horror writer, and some mysterious disappearances in Florida. It had a wonderful atmosphere and the author did a great job of slowly, very slowly, revealing what the horror of the piece was. _The Last Feast of the Harlequin_ by Thomas Ligotti was similarly excellent, the protagonist an anthropological researcher (who specialized in studying the role of the clown in various cultures) traveling to the town of Mirocaw to research a Winter Solstice celebration that was rumored to involve a clown figure. The main character finds more than he bargained for, discovering that there was a great deal more to the festival that initially met the eye. _The Barrens_ by F. Paul Wilson focused on a researcher and his ex-girlfriend, the former obsessed with the phenomenon of pine lights (eerie will o'wisp like globules of light said to haunt the New Jersey Pine Barrens), an obsession that leads the main characters to view the world in an entirely different light.

Several stories were a bit more unusual and I am not sure I understood them. _Shaft Number 247_ by Basil Cooper appeared to be set in the far future, underground, in a highly mechanized and regimented society that either could not survive on the surface of the earth or was afraid to. The Cthulhic element was subtle, almost slight. _The Shadow on the Doorstep_ by James P. Blaylock was well-written, almost poetic, describing the author's encounters with mysterious aquarium shops in various places in California as well as what might or might not have been some horrid apparition on his doorstep late one evening, but the horror and mystery in this piece was very subtle, maybe too subtle.

A couple of stories were humorous, playing with the Cthulhu mythos but not much in the style of Lovecraft, not that they weren't enjoyable. _Pickman's Modem_ by Lawrence Watt-Evans dealt with as one might guess a demonic modem and its effects on its user and _Love's Eldritch Ichor_ by Esther M. Friesner was almost slapstick, the subject a budding young romance writer (!) with some rather unusual friends.

I enjoyed this book a lot, I find it a fairly quick read and a good continuation of Lovecraft's writings. I would love to see a sequel volume.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2002
To my intense surprise and delight, Cthulhu 2000 proved to be a pretty good collection of highly diverse tales, a fair number of them good-humored send-ups that I was almost embarrassed to admit I found myself laughing with - my favorite being "Love's Eldritch Ichor," a very funny piece about a descendant of the Old Ones and a book editor falling in love in a Lovecraftian mansion a la The Addams Family, which, believe it or not, is a lot better than it sounds.
But I was even more surprised at the collection of legitimate horror stories, some as genuinely creepy as anything Lovecraft ever penned himself. Not all the stories are strictly Lovecraftian by connection, but most are essentially true to his overriding theme of cosmic terror. Don't expect straight Lovecraft, and you might find yourself really loving this book. I did.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 1999
I highly recommend this collection to all fans of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. This is quality stuff -- some of the best Mythos stories I've ever read, and I've read many.
I have not yet read all of the stories in this collection, but standouts thus far are "His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood," "Fat Face," "Black Man with a Horn," and "The Barrens." The latter tale has the nice feature of adding the New Jersey pine barrens and the Jersey Devil to the Cthulhu Mythos! This is a welcome bit of local color for Philadelphians like me, who have driven through the pine barrens year after year on the way to the South Jersey shore points. Now you don't have to go to New England to be in Cthulhu country! "Fat Face" has a ~very~ frightening look at what the ~shoggoths~ have been up to lately.
The book includes some stories I'd read before in other collections, like "Black Man With a Horn," and "Shaft Number 247," but since they are excellent tales it is nice to have them all together.
This book would make excellent beach reading for the Jersey shore... but you may not want to drive through the pine barrens on your way back.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2001
Okay, let me tell you something right off the bat. This is a pretty well put together book. Even the stories that I didn't like as much held my interest.
Why did I only give it three stars? The editor is willing to do this book a disservice, by giving it a cover that tries way to hard and assumes we're gullible and stupid. Why should I reward that type of behavior?
Lets look at the cover, what do we see? Well, the first thing your eye is drawn to is the large, bright white text that says "H.P. LOVECRAFT", a quarter inch taller then the more subdued green title, drowning out the fine print like "A spine tingling collection of the macabre inspired by".
Some of the stories in this book are about as "inspired by" as the Evil Dead trilogy. The only thing in them that is inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos was the name for the evil book that people are foolish enough to read out loud from. (In fact, from what I've read, Sam Raimi hardly knows/remembers who Lovecraft is or what he wrote...If Sam remembers that HPL wrote anything at all.) Does that make them bad movies? No! Does the fact that the connection is tenuous at best mean that if you like old school mythos you won't like these movies? Heck no!
This is a collection, each of the 18 stories is by a different writer, do not expect consistency in the level of Lovecraftianess. (If it wasn't a word before, it is now.)
Some of them make a valiant effort to write in the style and voice of the original Mythos writers. ("The Last Feast of Harlequin" and "I had vacantly crumpled it into my pocket...")
Some try to bring the old school into the present day.
("The Barrens")
Some gather it all up and take it out to left field where they start lobbing bits at you, trying to bean you in the head.
("Love's Eldritch Ichor")
Some take a few things and place them within a different genre to give it something of a new spin.
("The Big Fish")
And others will leave you wondering if perhaps you haven't picked up a White Wolf fiction novel by mistake.
("His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood")
I'm not saying to raise your expectations.
I'm not saying to lower your expectations.
I'm telling you to chuck your expectations out the window and nail the bugger shut so it can't slither back in.
You'll be glad you did.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Some of the reviews of this excellent anthology lead me to believe that they've missed the point. This is not an anthology of stories in the strict Lovecraftian tradition; it is rather a more disparate group of works which, more or less, were inspired by Lovecraft's work. They are in a broad spectrum of styles; the "Lovecraftian" element varies from potent to tenuous. But by and large it is a truly excellent collection. I found, of all the stories, T.E.D. Klein's "Black Man with a Horn" to be perhaps the most akin to Lovecraft's work, not in particulars so much, as in the sense of having blundered into a contact with cosmic horror, of which the protagonist becomes only slowly aware, yet which engulfs him finally. Two other stories are also very much in HPL's mode; Thomas Ligotti's "The Last Feast of Harlequin" is one of the stories that makes no overt reference to Lovecraft; yet it is a descendant of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" in the truest sense-- it generally follows the same narrative curve and is full of parallel plot elements and moods, even though they are not specific to Lovecraft. Many others of the stories make reference, direct or oblique, to elements of the "Mythos"; Gahan Wilson's HPL has Lovecraft himself (as well as Clark Ashton Smith) as a main character. "The Barrens", "Fat Face", and "The Faces at Pine Dunes" are also excellent. And, to leaven the mixture, there are two or three humorous entries-- "The Big Fish", a sort of Maltese Falcon comes to Innsmouth, very tongue in cheek (literally as you will see!); "Pickman's Modem", often humorous though ultimately creepy; and the delightful "Love's Eldritch Ichor", which is wonderfully amusing. Of the entries I felt Poppy Z. Brite's "His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood" to be one of the least Lovecraftian, as well as being rather unpleasant; but it will appeal to gothic-teens and such. I could have wished that the preface by Jim Turner would have discussed all the stories, not only Roger Zelazny's excellent "24 Views of Mount Fuji, by Hokusai". All in all the anthology earns an A+ and is a must for any lover of horror, Lovecraftian or not!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Jim Turner had a queer relationship with the sub-genre that is known as the Cthulhu Mythos -- and this book is an excellent example of that. Indeed, this is not an anthology of Cthulhu Mythos tales at all, but rather a book of Lovecraftian horror. As such, it is superb. Why he called the book by its stupid title I have no idea, unless he thought it would sell more briskly by having that magick name in its title. Some of the stories are weak and dull, such as "Pickman's Modem" and the absurd "Love's Eldritch Ichor" (which, rather than paying homage to Lovecraft seem more intent on making fun of him). But the book contains some masterpieces of weird fiction. My favourite tale is "His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood" by Poppy Z. Brite. It is an authentic homage to HPL (thus the narrator's name is Howard), and it is Brite's re-vision of Lovecraft's decadent tale, "The Hound." In updating Lovecraft's story, Brite has gone beyond him in detailing the debauchery of her two horror-hunting males; but the atmosphere is Gothic in a truly Lovecraftian way, and it is deliciously tainted by Brite's personal experience in the Goth scene. It's brilliant, that wee tale. The anthology also includes my favourite tale by the fantastic Thomas Ligotti, his "The Last Feast of Harlequin." Again, like Brite's tale, this story has absolutely nothing to do with the Cthulhu Mythos -- rather, it evokes the spirit of HPL in a story and a style that is uniquely its own. Ligotti is as much a modern master of the genre as Lovecraft was, and in fact he may be superior to Lovecraft in every way. One story that may indeed be classified as Cthulhu Mythos is T. E. D. Klein's "Black Man with a Horn," and it shews what can be done with the Mythos in the hand of a writer who has a unique imagination and a gift for fine writing. Michael Shea has brought the Mythos completely into our modern age, and his newest book as I write, COPPING SQUID (Perilous Press 2009, edited and with an introduction by S. T. Joshi) is one of the finest collections of intensely modern Mythos fiction. His tale herein, "Fat Face," is a classic of its kind, a brilliant play on Lovecraft's concept of the shoggoth. This anthology, combined with Jim's final such anthology, ETERNAL LOVECRAFT, showcase excellent modern fiction that is authentic tribute to the eternal genius of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Esq.
Contents of the book:
Introduction by Jim Turner
The Barrens by F. Paul Wilson
Pickman's Modem by Lawrence Watt-Evans
Shaft Number 247 by Basil Copper
His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood by Poppy Z. Brite
The Adder by Fred Chappell (a brilliant story!)
Fat Face by Michael Shea
The Big Fish by Kim Newman
"I Had Vacantly Crumpled It into My Pocket...But by God, Eliot, IT WAS A PHOTOGRAPH FROM LIFE!" by Joanna Russ
H.P.L. by Gahan Wilson
The Unthinkable by Bruce Sterling
Black Man with a Horn by T. E. D. Klein
Love's Eldritch Ichor by Esther M. Friesner
The Last Feast of Harlequin by Thomas Ligotti
The Shadow on the Doorstep by James P. Blaylock
Lord of the Land by Gene Wolf (excellent!)
The Faces at Pine Dunes by Ramsey Campbell (an eerie tale by a Master of modern horror)
On the Slab by Harlan Ellison
24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai by Roger Zelanzny

The complaint about the book from reviewers here at Amazon is that this is not a book of Cthulhu stories (thank gawd it isn't) and that the stories are boring. It has been suggested that they shew no sign of Lovecraft's influence. This is absurd nonsense. The title was a huge and stupid mistake, just a market ploy (the book was first published in hardcover by Arkham House). Jim Turner was one of the first editors of modern horror anthologies who so disliked the tiresome cliches of the Cthulhu Mythos that he concentrated on other aspects of Lovecraftian horror. These are among some of the finest weird tales ever written, they are superbly crafted and they are effective as horror fiction. They lack the childish cliches that one finds in so many Mythos tales, and that may be why those readers who enjoy those cliches dislike this book. This is a very mature anthology. Yet, each and every tale does, in some way, pay homage to H. P. Lovecraft and shews his influence. Some few of its stories are classics of Lovecraftian horror.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2007
The trouble with most Cthulhu collections (meaning Lovecraft pastiche) is that the authors don't really know what they're imitating. Usually you see an invocation of the Necronomicon, some chanting (in italics! Ia!), and the summoning of some unpronounceable god. This at least approaches the game that HPL and his friends played, to make an ancient tome and monster and then to share them in a common literary world. To recycle what already has been done, though, takes out the spirit of fun and creativity that was the point of the game to begin with. Some of the humorous pieces in the genre, like "It's Only the End of the World, Again" can at least tap into that spirit of conviviality. Typical Lovecraft pastiche can almost be done by Mad Lib.

It's even harder to get at the real spirit of what Lovecraft was writing about. Most folks think it's about horror; Lovecraft, himself, said that was not what his stories were about. In a letter, he said that he tried to evoke a sense of wonder and awe about the universe. And since he didn't believe in anything but cold nature, he felt that man's proper response to wonder and awe is fear and horror. Think about it.

Fortunately, CTHULHU 2000 is not bad pastiche or shallow horror (mostly). There are some gag stories that fall flat, and some that try to redo a Lovecraft story in the modern day and lose all that made it worth remembering. And I'll even admit that the offering from Zelazny was over my head. But there is some astonishingly good writing here, like "The Barrens", or "The Last Feast of Harlequin", or "The Faces at Pine Dunes". A lot of that quality is that the writers are already accomplished authors, but the excellence comes from telling an authentic story, without trying to copy a style. There's a sense of awe and wonder at discovering something bigger and deeper and more ancient than we can imagine, and being changed by that. And that's how you find Cthulhu at the end.

Contents:

"The Barrens" F. Paul Wilson

"Pickman's Modem" Lawrence Watt-Evans

"Shaft Number 247" Basil Copper

"His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood" Poppy Z Brite

"The Adder" Fred Chappell

"Fat Face" Michael Shea

"The Big Fish" Kim Newman

"I had Vacantly Crumpled It into My Pocket..." Joanna Russ

"H.P.L." Gahan Wilson

"The Unthinkable" Bruce Sterling

"Black Man With a Horn" T.E.D. Klein

"Love's Eldritch Ichor" Esther M. Friesner

"The Last Feast of Harlequin" Thomas Ligotti

"The Shadow on the Doorstep" James P. Blaylock

"Lord of the Land" Gene Wolfe

"The Faces at Pine Dunes" Ramsey Campbell

"On the Slab" Harlan Ellison

"24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai" Roger Zelazny
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Almost all the stories in CTHULHU 2000 are widely available in other publications, but to have them put in one package is very convenient and makes for a strong overall collection. Especially welcome are tales like Paul Wilson's "The Barrens," TED Klein's "Black Man With a Horn," Michael Shea's "Fat Face," and Fred Chappell's "The Adder" (which I had the honor of first publishing in DEATHREALM #9 quite a few years ago). For someone first delving into the post-HPL Cthulhu mythos, this is a great place to start. There are a few losers in the bunch, but the more "classic" stories easily make up for them. Also recommended for the mythos veteran who's looking for a handy volume of some of this subgenre's strongest tales.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Okay, I admit that I approached this anthology with some trepidation, since I enjoy the "old-school" style of Lovecraftian stories.

But despite myself, I ended up enjoying this collection, and I think other readers will also. Here's why:

--there's enough diversity in the types of tales presented to insure that most readers will find at least several stories they enjoy.

--there are a few just plain wonderfully creepy and atmospheric yarns, such as "The Barrens" by F. Paul Wilson and "The Last Feast of Harlequin" by Thomas Ligotti.

So give this collection a try. Horror fans and/or Lovecraft afficionados alike will find quite a few pleasant surprises in the gems presented here.

--
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2001
This is a solid collection for Lovecraft fans. Although there are some real terrors in this book, many of the stories are written with tongue firmly placed in cheek, which is refreshing. "The Big Fish" for example, with it's Cthulhu Noir style, was a lot of fun. High points include "The Barrens", "His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood", "Black Man With A Horn" and "The Last Feast of Harlequin". Many of the titles can be found in other compilations, but there is enough fresh meat mixed in with the classics to be satisfying. Finally, for all you aquarium owners, get this book for Peter Blaylock's "The Shadow on the Doorstep". It is a short romp into paranoia and tropical fish collecting by a master fantasist. Great story!
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