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The Children of Cthulhu Paperback – April 29, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

While H.P. Lovecraft himself encouraged other authors to expand his horrific universe with stories of their own, the Cthulhu mythos has spawned so many slavish imitators that it tends not to seem so scary these days. Editors John Pelan and Benjamin Adams seek to remedy that with The Children of Cthulhu, an anthology of 21 stories by modern macabre masters. Contributors were asked to avoid trotting out old Lovecraftian clichés and instead to write stories that bring the true horror of Cthulhu right into the modern world. The results are mostly terrific. Offerings from Poppy Z. Brite ("Are You Loathsome Tonight?"), Caitlín R. Kiernan ("Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea"), China Miéville ("Details"), and L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims ("A Victorian Pot Dresser") are the best of the bunch. Many of the stories are reminiscent of the Vertigo line of DC Comics, with dark, urban settings and gross-out violence, so the book is more likely to appeal to readers of contemporary horror than to fans of classic Lovecraft. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

If the 23 contributors to this uneven anthology avoid the obvious Cthulhu Mythos clich‚s, none comes close to emulating Lovecraft's trademark cosmic horror. Typical is the two editors' collaborative "That's the Story of My Life." Set in Arkham with "its aged, gambrel-roofed neighborhoods," this brisk tale relies for its effect on a twist out of Damon Knight, not on any Lovecraftian atmosphere. Richard Laymon's "The Cabin in the Woods," a tribute to H.P.L.'s "The Whisperer in Darkness," shares a rural Vermont setting, but its action-oriented, dialogue-laden plot is the antithesis of the master's. "A Victorian Pot Dresser," by L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims, in which an old piece of furniture hungers for sacrificial virgins, seems to be inspired by Lovecraft at his more ludicrous. The better stories deal with the Lovecraftian theme of outsideness, in particular Poppy Z. Brite's grotesque portrait of Elvis Presley's last days, "Are You Loathsome Tonight?" (the book's one reprint). Steve Rasnic Tem's homage to "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," "Outside," with its aquatic horror and decayed seaport, nicely evokes some of the brooding menace of Lovecraft's classic tale. And Caitl¡n R. Kiernan, in her stylish "Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea," does a turn on the lure of oceanic terrors with a bow to Lewis Carroll. To be preferred to most Lovecraft imitations, these 21 tales will likely please mainstream horror fans more than H.P.L. purists. Agent, Jennifer Jackson at Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Jan. 2)Forecast: Like the amphibious Deep Ones who threaten to expand beyond Innsmouth, Lovecraft-inspired fiction is starting to invade the genre mainstream. If this and similar anthologies take a beating in the larger marketplace, expect a hasty retreat into the shadowy recesses of the small press realm.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Reprint edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345441087
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345441089
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,140,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By welsh on January 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
It's nice to pay homage to Lovecraft. Given his contribution to the horror genre, such consideration is well deserved. Lovecraft's approach to the supernatural, his contribution to what has become called the Cthulhu Mythos and his embrace of the weird has enhanced our collection of horror. So it's nice that people pay him the honor he merits as what many consider second only to Poe in macabre fiction.

There's a lot that can be done with Lovecraft offers. People turning into hybrid amphibian creatures, the opening of dimensional doors to strange vistas, self-destructive ennui, the nature of dreams and lost civilizations, one's own sense of alientation and dread, and perhaps most of all the existential idea that our religions are false and that the real Gods either don't like us, or don't care and our fate is to be little more than food. That's a lot to work with. The Children of Cthulhu tries to work with all of it. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

Too much homage is not a good thing. As a collection of work dedicated or based on Lovecraft's Mythos this has some real fine stories. But it also suffers some fairly weak ones which is unfortunate. This could have been a finer volume of fiction than was finally published. It suffers for falling short of it's possibilities.

The first three stories are quite good. Details, by Mieville gets the collection off to a good start. I believe this is also available in his collection 'Looking for Jake'. Visitation, is also a fine story and I liked the historical fiction in The Invisible Empire.

Other enjoyable stories?
Foster's A Fatal Exception has Occurred, Dorr's Dark Side of the Moon. Patterson's Principles and Parameters suggest some modern horrors on the edge of science and academic exploration.
Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Steven Kaye on February 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The authors of this collection do an excellent job of using Lovecraft's themes (alienation, atavism, family secrets, the true horrific nature of the cosmos) and his influences (Dunsany, Machen, Poe) while for the most part avoiding cliched devices and plots.
While there are stories set in Arkham or involving Shub-Niggurath (to cite two examples), the stories are interesting in their own right, rather than being excuses to add new lore. Horror is a constant element, with some stories sliding over into science-fiction or fantasy, and there's variation in how the narrative is structured, in the voice of the narrator and the prose styling.
This is going to be the anthology to beat in the field of Mythos fiction.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire, Esq. on July 9, 2009
Format: Unbound
When John asked us to write for the book, he explained that he wanted an anthology that would help bring Lovecraft more into the modern age. There were no rules, except that we could not write stories that were sexually explicit because Del Rey wanted to market the book to young readers. I think that John envisioned the book as the Cthulhu Mythos equivalent of Harlan Ellison's DANGEROUS VISIONS. It is certainly one of the finest modern anthologies of tales inspired by H. P. Lovecraft and I am honored to be within its pages, however lacking and uninspired my own story may be. The book was a huge success and sold well both as hardcover edition and trade paperback. If you want innovative and superbly written tales that explore Lovecraftian ideas and yet are utterly original and decidedly modern, this book is for you.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Scott on June 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
The problem with reviewing books in this genre is that usually you've read a lot of them. And I mean a lot. After you've read 20 or so Mythos anthologies, they all blend together. You already know what you're getting before you open the book. Not that it's a bad thing; you are after all buying a very specific niche and there's not a lot of unmapped parameter space. Maybe it's just nice to evoke the spirit of the Old Man once again. Definitely understand that CHILDREN OF CTHULHU is a good collection of good stories. In the new millenium, the Old Ones are new again...

Some of the stories are fairly predictable, like "Red Clay", "The Victorian Pot Dresser", and "The Cabin in the Woods". Some were able to evoke the spirit of HPL while standing on their own as a creepy tale, like "The Invisible Empire", "Details" and "Long Meg and Her Daughters" (the imagery in this story was VERY disturbing - and here I thought I was getting jaded), intentionally or unintentionally amusing like "A Fatal Exception has Occurred at...", and sometimes just very confusing (I won't name names here). Poppy Z Brite had an original composition in "Are you Loathsome Tonight?" I would have bet money it would be a romantic comedy involving Deep Ones. No, it's a short piece on Elvis. You really have to read it to believe it.

So, in the end, is this anthology worth your time and money? The writing quality is high, many of the ideas are original (if oddly developed?) or at least subtle in their derivation. And like anyone who has encountered the NECRONOMICON in some dusty bookshop, my final words are "What could it hurt?"
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Michael C. Kessler on March 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Most of the stories in this anthology adopt the trappings of Lovecraft's tales, but none of the style. The most loyal of the bunch is China Mieville's entry. The remainder of the tales drop names or refer to classic tales to remind the reader of the nature of the anthology. A few of the tales, such as "A Victorian Pot Dresser," begin well, but soon decend into stadard horror cliches, with tight little endings that follow standard movie logic. What's missing, what's forgotten, is that most of the dread that Lovecraft evoked in his stories came not from the events in themselves, but from the greater implications of those events -- the knowledge that humanity is supremely insignificant is the wider world and, despite the realization of this horror, we can never understand why, the very nature of reality being invisible to our inferior biology and intellect. Most of these stories skip such implications and head straight for the gruesome monsters and the spattering blood with a near-complete lack of subtlety.
Best to skip this one and stick with older material, if not Lovecraft himself. Most of the anthologies published by Chaosium are far superior.
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