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Shadows of Death Mass Market Paperback – October 25, 2005


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345483332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345483331
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,745,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

H. P. Lovecraft (1890—1937) lived his life in the moody New England that was the setting for his tales. His writing appeared in some of his era’s most famous pulp magazines, but as no book of his work was published in his lifetime, Lovecraft died in relative poverty and obscurity. Since his death he has been recognized as one of the most influential cult horror writers of the twentieth century. His influence on American horror can be detected in the work of Stephen King, Anne Rice, Clive Barker, and many others.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Shadow Out of Time

After twenty-two years of nightmare and terror, saved only by a desperate conviction of the mythical source of certain impressions, I am unwilling to vouch for the truth of that which I think I found in Western Australia on the night of July 17–18, 1935. There is reason to hope that my experience was wholly or partly an hallucination—for which, indeed, abundant causes existed. And yet, its realism was so hideous that I sometimes find hope impossible.

If the thing did happen, then man must be prepared to accept notions of the cosmos, and of his own place in the seething vortex of time, whose merest mention is paralyzing. He must, too, be placed on guard against a specific, lurking peril which, though it will never engulf the whole race, may impose monstrous and unguessable horrors upon certain venturesome members of it.

It is for this latter reason that I urge, with all the force of my being, a final abandonment of all the attempts at unearthing those fragments of unknown, primordial masonry which my expedition set out to investigate.

Assuming that I was sane and awake, my experience on that night was such as has befallen no man before. It was, moreover, a frightful confirmation of all I had sought to dismiss as myth and dream. Mercifully there is no proof, for in my fright I lost the awesome object which would—if real and brought out of that noxious abyss—have formed irrefutable evidence.

When I came upon the horror I was alone—and I have up to now told no one about it. I could not stop the others from digging in its direction, but chance and the shifting sand have so far saved them from finding it. Now I must formulate some definite statement—not only for the sake of my own mental balance, but to warn such others as may read it seriously.

These pages—much in whose earlier parts will be familiar to close readers of the general and scientific press—are written in the cabin of the ship that is bringing me home. I shall give them to my son, Professor Wingate Peaslee of Miskatonic University—the only member of my family who stuck to me after my queer amnesia of long ago, and the man best informed on the inner facts of my case. Of all living persons, he is least likely to ridicule what I shall tell of that fateful night.

I did not enlighten him orally before sailing, because I think he had better have the revelation in written form. Reading and rereading at leisure will leave with him a more convincing picture than my confused tongue could hope to convey.

He can do anything that he thinks best with this account—showing it, with suitable comment, in any quarters where it will be likely to accomplish good. It is for the sake of such readers as are unfamiliar with the earlier phases of my case that I am prefacing the revelation itself with a fairly ample summary of its background.

My name is Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee, and those who recall the newspaper tales of a generation back—or the letters and articles in psychological journals six or seven years ago—will know who and what I am. The press was filled with the details of my strange amnesia in 1908–13, and much was made of the traditions of horror, madness, and witchcraft which lurked behind the ancient Massachusetts town then and now forming my place of residence. Yet I would have it known that there is nothing whatever of the mad or sinister in my heredity and early life. This is a highly important fact in view of the shadow which fell so suddenly upon me from outside sources.

It may be that centuries of dark brooding had given to crumbling, whisper-haunted Arkham a peculiar vulnerability as regards such shadows—though even this seems doubtful in the light of those other cases which I later came to study. But the chief point is that my own ancestry and background are altogether normal. What came, came from somewhere else—where, I even now hesitate to assert in plain words.

I am the son of Jonathan and Hannah (Wingate) Peaslee, both of wholesome old Haverhill stock. I was born and reared in Haverhill—at the old homestead in Boardman Street near Golden Hill—and did not go to Arkham till I entered Miskatonic University as instructor of political economy in 1895.

For thirteen years more my life ran smoothly and happily. I married Alice Keezar of Haverhill in 1896, and my three children, Robert, Wingate, and Hannah, were born in 1898, 1900, and 1903, respectively. In 1898 I became an associate professor, and in 1902 a full professor. At no time had I the least interest in either occultism or abnormal psychology.

It was on Thursday, May 14, 1908, that the queer amnesia came. The thing was quite sudden, though later I realized that certain brief, glimmering visions of several hours previous—chaotic visions which disturbed me greatly because they were so unprecedented—must have formed premonitory symptoms. My head was aching, and I had a singular feeling— altogether new to me—that some one else was trying to get possession of my thoughts.

The collapse occurred about 10:20 a.m., while I was conducting a class in Political Economy VI—history and present tendencies of economics—for juniors and a few sophomores. I began to see strange shapes before my eyes, and to feel that I was in a grotesque room other than the classroom. My thoughts and speech wandered from my subject, and the students saw that something was gravely amiss. Then I slumped down, unconscious, in my chair, in a stupor from which no one could arouse me. Nor did my rightful faculties again look out upon the daylight of our normal world for five years, four months, and thirteen days. It is, of course, from others that I have learned what followed. I showed no sign of consciousness for sixteen and a half hours, though removed to my home at 27 Crane Street, and given the best of medical attention.

At 3 a.m. May 15th my eyes opened and I began to speak, but before long the doctor and my family were thoroughly frightened by the trend of my expression and language. It was clear that I had no rememberance of my identity and my past, though for some reason I seemed anxious to conceal this lack of knowledge. My eyes gazed strangely at the persons around me, and the flections of my facial muscles were altogether unfamiliar.

Even my speech seemed awkward and foreign. I used my vocal organs clumsily and gropingly, and my diction had a curiously stilted quality, as if I had laboriously learned the English language from books. The pronunciation was barbarously alien, whilst the idiom seemed to include both scraps of curious archaism and expressions of a wholly incomprehensible cast.

Of the latter, one in particular was very potently—even terrifiedly—recalled by the youngest of the physicians twenty years afterward. For at that late period such a phrase began to have an actual currency—first in England and then in the United States—and though of much complexity and indisputable newness, it reproduced in every least particular the mystifying words of the strange Arkham patient of 1908.

Physical strength returned at once, although I required an odd amount of reeducation in the use of my hands, legs, and bodily apparatus in general. Because of this and other handicaps inherent in the mnemonic lapse, I was for some time kept under strict medical care.

When I saw that my attempts to conceal the lapse had failed, I admitted it openly, and became eager for information of all sorts. Indeed, it seemed to the doctors that I lost interest in my proper personality as soon as I found the case of amnesia accepted as a natural thing.

They noticed that my chief efforts were to master certain points in history, science, art, language, and folklore—some of them tremendously abstruse, and some childishly simple—which remained, very oddly in many cases, outside my consciousness.

At the same time they noticed that I had an inexplicable command of many almost unknown sorts of knowledge—a command which I seemed to wish to hide rather than display. I would inadvertently refer, with casual assurance, to specific events in dim ages outside of the range of accepted history—passing off such references as a jest when I saw the surprise they created. And I had a way of speaking of the future which two or three times caused actual fright.

These uncanny flashes soon ceased to appear, though some observers laid their vanishment more to a certain furtive caution on my part than to any waning of the strange knowledge behind them. Indeed, I seemed anomalously avid to absorb the speech, customs, and perspectives of the age around me; as if I were a studious traveler from a far, foreign land.

As soon as permitted, I haunted the college library at all hours; and shortly began to arrange for those odd travels, and special courses at American and European Universities, which evoked so much comment during the next few years.

I did not at any time suffer from a lack of learned contacts, for my case had a mild celebrity among the psychologists of the period. I was lectured upon as a typical example of secondary personality—even though I seemed to puzzle the lecturers now and then with some bizarre symptoms or some queer trace of carefully veiled mockery.

Of real friendliness, however, I encountered little. Something in my aspect and speech seemed to excite vague fears and aversions in every one I met, as if I were a being infinitely removed from all that is normal and healthful. This idea of a black, hidden horror connected with incalculable gulfs of some sort of distance was oddly widespread and persistent.

My own family formed no exception. From the moment of my strange waking my wife had regard...

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kurt A. Johnson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 20, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) was one of the kings of the horror genre, and had he lived longer, one can only imagine what masterpieces he might have created. But, what we do have are book such as this one. This book is a collection of some twenty of his short stories, covering his entire writing career. Overall, I found this to be a wonderful book, and I really enjoyed the stories...my favorite being Shadow Out Of Time.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes good old fashioned horror stories!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Grey on August 18, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Lovecraft notoriously relies on mood rather than piddling concerns like dialogue or plot, so it's perhaps not surprising that his longer works falter. That's particularly true in this collection, which contains the mind-numbingly dull "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath," which left me longing for a Lovecraft/Nightmare on Elm Street crossover wherein I could send Freddy Krueger after Randolph Carter to finish the meandering bastard off once and for all.

The other issue with this particular collection is that most of the tales, like the aforementioned horror that is "The Dream-Quest", are set in worlds totally of Lovecraft's fevered imagining, which seem to sport a lot of showy lapidary work but not much else. Characters move through strange realms as if there were a spotlight upon them, illuminating only what they approach without ever giving any kind of clear view of the world as a whole (or why all the realms seem so hung up on decorative stone work). Frankly, the author's work is more effective when he brings this kind of nebulous feeling to a more familiar setting, like his storied New England. That breeds horror; the other just breeds the desire for a roadmap, a good flashlight, and possibly a fence who deals in lapis.

Still, if for no other reason this collection is worthwhile for the inclusion of the three page short "The Book," which is utterly delightful for taking the concept of books changing your life and turning it on its head and giving it tentacles. Sadly, this book fails to pack the punch of that story's worm-riddled tome.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By P. Fierro on April 13, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Good, cheap collection of some of Lovecraft's best stories, including The Shadow Out of Time, The Tomb, and the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 18, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A good collection of short stories by Lovecraft, building to a climax with The Dream-quest of Unknown Kadath. There are a few unfinished works at the end that feel tacked on, but one of his early short stories: The Beast in the Cave is one my personal favorites.
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