Top positive review
Worthy of Succeeding Lovecraft.
Reviewed in the United States on November 4, 2019
Although I normally loathe to compare authors to other authors, in this case, it is difficult to talk about Sharkchild without commenting on the obvious comparison. Especially when he bills himself as, and writes in a style that is obviously revealed to be such when you open his stories, Lovecraftian cosmic terror.
So do I think these tales measure up to the likes of leviathans such as Shadow Out of Time and The Whisperer in Darkness? The answer is yes, though not exactly in the way you might expect.
Lovecraft's stories were often about cosmic figures, ancient revelations, and dark gods. These were longer-form tales that slowly built up the protagonists' revelation over time. Sharkchild, on the other hand, seems to enjoy writing much more bite size pieces. This is where I think many people feel that the Lovecraft comparison isn't as apt as I do, but I think I can make a case that the spirit of the original genre is preserved.
Sharkchild's stories, are, at their core, about the chaotic and cruel nature of existence and the universe's cold indifference to humanity. Yes, there is much less emphasis on the actual revelation itself or the madness of the characters that undergo it, but I think the world-building is much the same. The Dark Verse paints a picture of a world where fantastic, even enticing (albeit in a morbid way) magic exists, but comes with cruel realities and always seems to spell doom and suffering for everyone involved. There is ever that faint glimmer of some kind of lesson or point to it all, but we can never be sure. Answers don't come easy, and the darkness of Sharkchild's multiverse is these tales' "main character" so-to-speak, which altogether is not that much different than Lovecraft. At the end of the day, what you get is a sort of "straight and to the point" sort of dark fantasy that is nonetheless filled with interesting concepts. Considering the ponderous verboseness of some of H.P.'s works, one could argue this is a good thing.
What of the prose itself? Here, too, I think that the Dark Verse is worthy of praise. It has that sort of hypnotically grotesque eloquence of Lovecraft but without the over-reliance on unending sentences, outdated parlance, and repetitive words. (I doubt I heard the phrase "cyclopian masonry" more than once). This is what one might call a very readable take on Lovecraft's style. Sure, there are fancy words here and there, but they're used sparingly and to great effect. Sharkchild knows how to keep a reader interested, stating things in a way that is both understandable and descriptive. Casual readers might have a little bit of trouble, but I think that more avid readers who are used to Lovecraft's style will find the sentences of The Dark Verse captivating.
If there is any criticism I can offer, it is that yes, some of the stories do feel a little short and jilted. As far as I can tell, though, these tales were adapted from podcasts that were made first, so the intent here may have actually been to create a bite-sized "flavor of the week" sort of feel. Either way, if you like horror or dark fantasy, I can easily see someone binging the whole book or reading one entry before bed each night, whatever floats your boat. It would be great if Sharkchild attempted a novella at some point; something you could really sink your teeth into and appreciate a more prolonged development of characters and horror. Nevertheless, I feel it is better to be left wanting more than wanting less, and I must admit to being endless amazed by the dark imagination that Sharkchild must possess to create such variance in his short stories.
Atmosphere and Tone: 5/5
Themes and Subjects: 5/5