on September 9, 2012
I have read, elsewhere, the majority of the stories in this great anthology, but I will be overjoy'd to have them all in one book. I will wait until I have a copy of the book to write a critical review; for now I want to list the book's Contents for you who are curious as to what tales the book contains.
Introduction, Ross E. Lockhart
Shoggoth's Old Peculiar, by Neil Gaiman
Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea, by Caitlin R. Kiernan
This Is How the World Ends, by John R. Fultz
The Drowning at Lake Henpin, by Paul Tobin
The Ocean and All Its Devices, by William Browning Spencer
Take Your Daughters to Work, by Livia Llewellyn
The Big Fish, by Kim Newman
Rapture of the Deep, by Cody Goodfellow
Once More from the Top, by A. Scott Glancy
Hour of the Tortoise, by Molly Tanzer
I Only Am Escaped Alone to Tell Thee, by Christopher Reynaga
Objects from the Gilman-Waite Collection, by Ann K. Schwader
Of Melei, of Ulthar, by Gord Sellar
A Gentleman from Mexico, by Mark Samuels
The Hands that Reek and Smoke, by W. H. Pugmire
Akropolis, by Matt Wallace
Boojum, by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette
The Nyarlathotep Event, by Jonathan Wood
The Black Brat of Dunwich, by Stanley C. Sargent
The Terror from the Depths, by Fritz Leiber
Black Hill, by Orrin Grey
The God of Dark Laughter, by Michael Chabon
Sticks, by Karl Edward Wagner
Hand of Glory, by Laird Barron.
on December 18, 2012
Review originally appeared on my blog, The Arkham Digest.
In 2011, Ross E. Lockhart, managing editor at Night Shade Books, put together an amazing anthology of Lovecraft inspired stories titled The Book of Cthulhu. Weighing in at five hundred pages, this tome managed to collect some of the best Lovecraftian stories to be found, and even included a couple original tales. I'll most likely be doing a review at some point, but if I may cut to the chase now it's safe to say that it's a brilliant anthology that should have a place in every Lovecraft fan's library.
The Book of Cthulhu met with enough success to warrant a sequel volume which was published in September, The Book of Cthulhu II. Lockhart has chosen more of the finest tales, as well as giving readers four original tales this time around. The book is a tad bit shorter, at four hundred and forty pages, but should easily satisfy any fan of the first.
The main problem with Lovecraft-inspired fiction is that there is so much of it out there. In a sense, for fanboys like me, this is also a good thing, although it means there is also a ton of not-so-good pastiches. Lockhart has found some of the standout stories over the years, some of which I was already very familiar with and others that I myself have not read.
The tales themselves vary in tone. Some of the stories are horrific, and others are light-hearted and even silly. Thematically, there are stories chosen that represent different aspects of Lovecraft's writing. The vast majority are Cthulhu-Mythos related, or play on those ideas, however there is a tale that explores Lovecraft's dream cycle. Overall, the vast majority of stories are great reads, and the book is a must have for any fan of the Gentleman of Providence.
Some individual story notes:
The anthology opens with Shoggoth's Old Peculiar by Neil Gaiman, which is one of the light-hearted, silly offerings. Gaiman's storytelling skills are evident, and it's a fun little opener for the anthology.
Next up is Caitlin Kiernan's Nor The Demons Down Under The Sea (1957). The story is a sequel to Andromeda Among The Stones (a brilliant story that is the opener for The Book of Cthulhu). Kiernan's language is beautiful as she paints a picture of strained relationship which leads to a "house with secrets".
John Fultz brings the apocalypse with This Is How The World Ends, and it's not a pretty one. Cthulhu rises, monsters of all types begin spreading, while some people fight to survive in an increasingly hostile world.
In the first original story, The Drowning at Lake Henpin, author Paul Tobin pens a fun tale with all the right Mythos elements. He's a new author to me, and I look forward to read more of his works.
The Ocean and All It's Devices by William Browning Spencer is a well-written story about a creepy family who visits a hotel by the beach every year. There is obviously more going on, and plenty of play with the creepy kid trope.
Livia Llewellyn weaves a depressing tale about a transformed Earth and sacrifice. Take Your Daughters To Work is a beautifully written story and really showcases this author's vast talent.
Big Fish was originally published under a pseudonym by author Kim Newman. It's a fun, pulpy, hardboiled detective story.
Cody Goodfellow is another author that I am growing to love. Every story I've read by him I've loved. Rapture of the Deep is no exception, and is a great story of psychics and the Mythos.
Readers of the first Book of Cthulhu will be hard pressed to forget Molly Tanzer's The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins, a story that manages to be creepy and funny at the same time. Tanzer brings us another Calipash tale (and an original to this anthology) with The Hour of the Tortoise. The story is delightfully perverse, funny, twisted and disturbing in only a way that she could pull off.
Ann K. Schwader, known especially for her dark poetry, hits a homerun with Objects From The Gilman-Waite Collection. Schwader pumps up the anxiety in a man's trip to an art exhibit that is a little bit out of this world.
A Gentleman From Mexico showcases Mark Samuels' easy style of writing. The story moves along at a nice pace, and touches on a few Lovecraftian themes, such as dark cults, evil gods, and the transference of consciousness. I enjoyed the story to quite an extent, and have ordered one of his story collections.
Another author who always delivers a solid tale is W.H. Pugmire. The Hands That Reek and Smoke is a haunting tale about Nyarlathotep. As usual with Pugmire's tales, this one has beautiful, poetic prose.
Matt Wallace writes an eerie science fiction story titled Akropolis about something that falls from the sky but becomes a city, gifting farmboys with unbelievable powers. These God-like beings then proceed to take over the world in this wonderfully dark story.
Fritz Leiber's classic, The Terror From The Depths, has some cool ideas, but is also a bit overlong. References many of Lovecraft's tales.
Black Hills by Orrin Grey is a creepy tale about oil. I loved the ending and the language used in the story.
Michael Chabon's The God of Dark Laughter is a very literate, and very short story about the murder of a clown. The story explores an eerie mythology, and really makes me wish Chabon wrote more Lovecraftian tales.
Karl Edward Wagner pens one of the best Lovecraftian tales ever written in Sticks. This story remains one of the most classic stories of its kind, and holds up well with rereads.
Lockhart's closing author of choice is once again Laird Barron. Barron's story Hand of Glory retains some of the usual Barron trappings (a macho protagonist, a noir-ish feel) but stands out in that it isn't really a horrific story. There do exist some horrifying moments, but for the most part it stands as a fun tale of a gangster who gets mixed up into the Occult. There are also tons of references to his other stories, which serves to furthermore weave them all together into Barron's own web of Northwestern Mythos horror.
There are several other good stories in the book as well. Stanley C. Sargent puts his own spin on The Dunwich Horror, A. Scott Glancy serves readers a Delta Green story about the government raid on Innsmouth, Christopher Reynaga offers a short re-telling of Moby Dick, Elizabeth Bear teams with Sarah Monette for a tale set on board a living spaceship, Jonathan Wood delivers a sequel to his novel No Hero, and Gord Sellar hits on the dream cycle with a visit to Ulthar.
All in all, any fan of Lovecraft can't afford to miss out on this one. If you're a fanboy like I am, you most likely have a good amount of these stories in other books, but even if you do the originals are worth the buy. Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing if Lockhart plans to continue the series. With his two for two track record, this blogger is hoping he does.
on July 17, 2015
“Boojum” may be the best piece in the whole book; it’s another a lovely sci-fi jaunt from Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette with memorable characters (including one you might not expect) and an unusual reliance on its reader’s intelligence. The closer “Hand of Glory,” making its first appearance, is among Laird Barron’s more accomplished longer-form stories. John R. Fultz’s “This is How the World Ends” is a model of apocalyptic economy, William Browning Spencer’s “The Ocean and All Its Devices” happily literary, Lydia Llewellyn’s “Take Your Daughters to Work” downright surgical and A. Scott Glancy does a fine job with the challenging task of making a military operation come alive in “Once More from the Top.” And while respectively a bit dry and under-developed, Karl Edward Wagner’s “Sticks” and Mark Saunders’ “A Gentleman from Mexico” are nevertheless more than decent reads.
At the same time, issues from the first collection remain. A number of stories seem slight, amateurish, gimmicky or simply failed to resonate with me. (A couple also don’t seem to have been fully proofed; I found a number of typos.) Neil Gaiman’s leadoff piece “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar” never rises above cute joke. Several tales are overwritten -- a couple almost unreadably so. Paul Tobin’s “The Drowning at Lake Henpin” is ultimately too flaccid in the telling to make a strong impression. Like Brian Lumley’s “Fairground Horror” in the first set, Fritz Leiber’s “The Terror from the Depths” has aged poorly. Kim Newman in the soft-boiled “The Big Fish” and Jonathan Wood in flash-fictionish “The Nyarlathotep Event” seem at least as interested in making as laugh as in scaring us and it’s a less than effective mix.
Indeed, not one of the stories threw a proper scare into me, and a Lovecraft-inspired anthology without at least a taste of dread is rather missing the point. It’s not that the writers don’t try -- Ann K. Schwader’s “Objects from the Gilman-Waite Collection” probably comes closest -- but they tend to tell us rather than show us.
on April 4, 2013
Lovecraft is a much-emulated, much-borrowed from writer and I often pause when I see "Lovecraft-inspired" or such similar phrases attached to a work. It too often means an overly heavy hand in "borrowing" and little in the way of creativity. The Book of Cthulhu 2 defies that stereotype in spades. This is a stunning collection of Lovecraft inspired tales all centered around the infamous Cthulhu myth. The stories in this collection vary greatly in theme, tone, and atmosphere, but all pay homage to the great master of storytelling and world-building without falling victim to that heavy hand.
Some, like Neil Gaiman's selection "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar," make direct reference to Lovecraft while at the same time resurrecting the Cthulhu mythos in a modern setting off the English coast. Others, such as "Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea" by Caitlin R. Kiernan, allude to the mysteries of the master with just as much skill and craft. William Browning Spencer's "The Ocean and All Its Devices" gives us the possible origins of such creatures in his heartbreaking tale of loss. Kim Newman even gives us Lovecraft noir in her excellent story "The Big Fish." There are two dozen stories here from some of the biggest names in horror. Laird Barron, Neil Gaiman, Jonathon Wood, W. H. Pugmire, and more serve up a fantastic selection of monsters.
The only catch- you must be a Lovecraft fan. Without that, many of the stories will be a little too odd as they rely on an understanding of the original story. I haven't read the grand original in some time and I took pause to dig it up. I then went back into the stories and they were far richer thematically and symbolically. There are very few weak moments in this one and worth every slithery scale!
Written by: Drake Morgan for HorrorNovelReviews.com
on November 5, 2012
Absolutely riveting, I can't put it down! I am not even the slightest bit familiar with H.P Lovecraft's work but this book of short stories has inspired me to read as much as I can by him. I'm pretty sure I will enjoy the original all the more now that I have so many brilliant stories to draw upon. I am also going to get the first book in the series. Every story has a flavor and style all it's own, each one as fascinating as the last. It's a great read and I want to stop writing this review so I can get back to reading it!!
on March 4, 2014
Ross E. Lockhart has dove through the depths of R'lyeh and collected some of the best treasures the ocean of Lovecraftian fiction has to offer.
The collection takes off with the lighter, more whimsical Shoggoth's Old Peculiar by Neil Gaiman and you'll feel whiplash at the end with jaw-dropping, tough-as-nails, Hand of Glory by Laird Barron. The middle of this anthology is packed with most--or maybe, arguably, all the best names from past to present currently dominating the Lovecraftian literary landscape. If you're a fan of Lovecraftian anthologies, the familiars are there including, Caitlin R. Kiernan and the always amazing, W.H. Pugmire. There are also some of the newer guys too, like Molly Tanzer, (Her story, The Hour of the Tortoise is original to this collection) and Cody Goodfellow, whose story Rapture of the Deep is one of the most brilliant spins on a Lovecraftian tale I've ever read, dealing with a telepath and a scenic view of R'lyeh. Rapture of the Deep is so good with its lush descriptions and ingeniousness I read it three times. There isn't a dud in this whole collection, no sag, no lull.
The Book of Cthulhu I and II stands toe to toe with the Black Wings anthologies by S.T. Joshi and all those great anthologies edited by Lovecraftian scholar, Robert M. Price. The Book of Cthulhu I and II will remain a staple in any Lovecraftian's book collections for years to come. A classic.
on August 26, 2013
I've been on a bit of a Lovecraft kick lately, first reading the man himself, then Alan Moore's disturbing homage. And it all got its impetus from The Book Of Cthulhu II, which I won via the Goodreads FirstReads program. I figured I should read the real thing before picking up either of the derivatives. Sad to say, I haven't had any luck finding a copy of The Book Of Cthulhu I, but oh well. Most of these are authors I'd not heard of before, and all save a couple are ones I'd yet to sample. Kim Newman wrote the stellar Anno Dracula series, among other things, and I am a Neil Gaiman devotee. I've not read all of his work yet, but not for lack of trying.
This is an anthology of Lovecraft-inspired works from a wide range of authors. I'll list and comment below, only commenting on plot when I think it necessary. Its a bit tough to mention plot for a short story without spoilers, so....
--Neil Gaiman, Shoggoth's Old Peculiar; I had read this one before in a collection of Gaiman tales (don't remember which one), and it didn't make much sense then as I had never read HPL. Now I have, and I had a much greater appreciation for the story. That said, not nearly as great as A Study In Emerald.
--Caitlin R. Kiernan, Nor The Demons Down Under The Sea; The writing style here was a bit confusing at first-Ms. Kiernan is not afraid of a sentence fragment masquerading as a full sentence if it helps set her scene. But once the scene was set this proved a very evocative tale.
--John R. Fultz, This Is How The World Ends; Fultz sketches a brief vignette of Cthulu's rise from the deeps to swallow the world, and I must say his vision is frankly terrifying.
--Paul Tobin, The Drowning At Lake Henpin; Most of these are Lovecraftian, but this is the first one I've seen that could have been written by Lovecraft himself.
--William Browning Spencer, The Ocean And All Its Devices; I'm still not completely sure I understand what Spencer is saying about what lives in the water just offshore from this beachfront hotel, but I know I don't want to meet it.
--Livia Llewellyn, Take Your Daughters To Work; This one succeeded in disturbing me. That's all I'll say.
--Kim Newman, The Big Fish; I love Kim Newman. Newman is a past master of the literary pastiche, here presenting a sequel to Lovecraft's Shadow Over Innsmouth while at the same time doing a Sam Spade-type character (maybe Spade himself, the protagonist is never named...did Spade live in San Francisco?) AND roping in his recurring characters Edwin Winthrop and Genvieve Dieudonné from the Diogenes Club stories.* Which I am just reminded that I should get around to reading...
--Cody Goodfellow, Rapture Of The Deep; A corporate investigation into a potential source of endless energy on the seafloor turns to terror when an ex-Soviet psychic and his unwilling protegé take an astral visit to sunken R'lyeh....
--A. Scott Glancy, Once More From The Top; An aged Marine recounts the horror he and his fellows experienced at the Battle Of Innsmouth. I quite enjoyed this one...though I don't recall the Deep Ones having Shoggoths in the original story. Maybe that came from one of HPL's stories I haven't read yet...Anyway, gonna try and track down the anthology this originated in.
--Molly Tanzer, The Hour Of The Tortoise; An exiled young lady returns to her ancestral home, thought cursed by the surrounding villagers, to find her illegitimate father on his deathbed and something amiss about the house....
--Christopher Reynaga, I Only Am Escaped Alone To Tell Thee; Christopher Reynaga recasts Moby Dick as a tale of Captain Ahab hunting Cthulhu in order to buy the world more time before his rise.
--Ann K. Schwader, Objects From The Gilman-Waite Collection; A creepy though not unpredictable tale of a man entering a museum exhibit featuring the coral and gold jewelry from The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
--Gord Sellar, Of Melei, Of Ulthar; I'm still not sure I understand this one. Melei is visiting other worlds in her sleep, one of which appears to be post-Cthulhu New York. I can't figure out, however, whether she exists in the far-distant past or the regressed future...in either case, it was an intriguing tale.
--Mark Samuels, A Gentleman From Mexico; This was an outstanding idea, and I literally laughed out loud when I realized what was going on. I didn't find the ending as strong as the middle, but it was very like what Lovecraft himself might have written as the ending.
--W.H. Pugmire, The Hands That Reek And Smoke; Very creepy. Not really my thing, but creepy.
--Matt Wallace, Akropolis; Behold, the Great Old Ones are returning, and they have sent their emissaries to prepare the way for them...A great story here.
--Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette, Boojum; This was one of my favorites, a real surprise find. Living spacecraft, starfaring pirates, evil aliens who collect human brains for their own sinister purposes...it's all here. Quality science-fiction! I'm going to track down the anthology it was originally written for...I was a bit hazy on most of the Lovecraft connections in this one, as I'd not read the relevant tales.
--Jonathan Wood, The Nyarlathotep Event; Agent Arthur Wallace of MI37 goes up against Nyarlathotep, an ancient entity from a dimension representing humanity's collective fears, and he does it with a snarky sense of humor and a hilarious narrative voice. I literally laughed out loud several times while reading it, and plan to track down the author's other stories featuring the same protagonists.
--Stanley C. Sargent, The Black Brat Of Dunwich; A surprising tale here, as Sargent turns the entire HPL story The Dunwich Horror on its head. Very fun, and HPL himself might be a fan of this one, but it would help to have read the original tale first.
--Fritz Leiber, The Terror From The Depths; I actually forgot for a while that this wasn't actually a Lovecraft story. I don't think I've ever seen (by HPL or anyone else) so comprehensive and cohesive an ode to the Cthulhu Mythos...Well done.
--Orrin Grey, Black Hill; A quick read, a mite predictable, but decent nonetheless.
--Michael Chabon, The God Of Dark Laughter; A small-town sheriff investigates the ritual murder of a clown, possibly uncovering ties to an ancient and unholy cult. I really enjoyed this one, and I think I may have to look up more of Michael Chabon's work.
--Karl Edward Wagner, Sticks; An incredibly creepy tale of an artist who discovers an ancient abandoned cottage that continues to haunt his dreams...Again, I really enjoyed this.
--Laird Barron, Hand Of Glory; Less actually scary, not incredibly Lovecraftian, but a good story nonetheless. Mobland hitman Johnny Cope has a problem. It seems that an old enemy of his father has sent goons to kill him. They weren't incredibly successful, but they did manage to get his ire up. Now Johnny wants to know why....
On the whole, I loved this collection. A lot of the stories were excellent, but like with any collection you'll have some that were better than others. I love Neil Gaiman, but given my choice I'd put in A Study In Emerald over Shoggoth's Old Peculiar. Its simply a better tale-though, I'll allow, perhaps not a better tribute to the original Lovecraft. Some of the stories I flat-out disliked, but that was probably a matter of taste. Certainly they are different than the ones cited by other reviewers as having fallen flat for them. A few of the stories, good as they were on their own, probably would have been enhanced by a more thorough knowledge of Lovecraft's works. I've only read a very small selection as of this writing. I plan to remedy that in the near future...I very much recommend picking up this book if you ever get the chance.
*Technically, the Diogenese Club stories happen in a separate world from the Anno Dracula novels, but they are mirrors of each other and feature the same characters. The prime difference seems to be that in the Diogenes Club stories Dracula was actually defeated as scheduled in his original book, whereas in the Anno Dracula world he was triumphant.
Content: This is a horror anthology, so from the get-go you know its not going to be appropriate for children. Bloody horror violence. Sexual references, including the implication that a couple characters are lesbians. The protagonist in another tale makes her living as a writer of Victorian-era pornography, and mostly non-explicit excerpts of her work are included. She also refers to several sexual encounters of her own, in generally non-explicit but incredibly suggestive terms. Language varies from story to story, but some at least are R-rated.
on April 6, 2013
Though not for the squeamish, this collection of Lovecraftian fiction is delightfully dark and decadent. I especially admire those stories which produce a sensation of nameless dread about cosmic forces far beyond our control and understanding. There is mystery! There is terror! There is a undercurrent of madness that borders on literary genius! This anthology---as well as the one preceding it---is a real gem and I'm so glad to have a copy.
on March 24, 2016
It's interesting to see what others make of the Cthlu mythos. This is an uneven collection of derivative tales. My recommendation would be to read Lovecraft's original stories first. If you get excited by Chthlu and the 'Elder Gods' and so forth, then eventually you'll want to read this collection.
on July 25, 2013
I read volume one and half way through I absolutely knew i had to get this one too. I am forever a fan of lovecraft and this does not dissapoint. So far each story has drawn me in and hooked me. Some of the stories even manage to pull of some humor while keeping the lovecraft tone. Read it!