- Series: Call of Cthulhu Fiction
- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Chaosium, Inc. (December 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1568821247
- ISBN-13: 978-1568821245
- Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,132,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Ithaqua Cycle (Call of Cthulhu Fiction) Paperback – December, 1997
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In this case the progrenitor story is Algernon Blackwood's "The Wendigo," about a strange encounter some hunters have with the legendary creature, which is an excellent story in its own right. This story, with its notions of an ancient, powerful creature with incomprehensible motives, is sort of a pre-Lovecraft Lovecraftian story. It's obvious why Derleth chose to import the Wendigo into the Mythos under the name Ithaqua.
Another story that might have inspired Derleth, "The Thing from Outside," is also included. This story involves a group of scientist's encounter with an incomprehensible alien. This story isn't as good, it's confusing, and it has the typical pulp horror flaw of the characters coming to realize the true nature of the monster with way too little information available. It is haunting at a few points though.
After this come a three Derleth stories, "The Thing that Walked on the Wind," "The Snow Thing," and "Beyond the Threshold." The first story isn't very well written and packed with too many mythos ideas (typical of Derleth). The Snow Thing, which has the same plot as the first (police investiagtor stumbles onto Ithaqua cult and gets killed) is better written and paced. "Beyond the Threshold" is alright, its main problem (as Price points out in the introduction to a different story) is that Ithaqua's identity isn't that important, the story could be rewritten with any Mythos diety.
The other stories range from middling to good, none of them are really bad, but some aren't that entertaining. My favorite was "Footsteps in the Sky" where a correspondant in the Russian Civil War finds his platoon being stalked by Ithaqua.
One last thing I'd like to mention is that Price's introductions (both to the book and each story) are some of his better ones, he generally sticks to the point and doesn't go off chasing some wild theory (like he did in "The Nyarlathotep Cycle).
********First up is the novella 'The Wendigo' by Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) and which features a hunting party of two hunters and two guides, in the French-Canadian wilderness. When the hunting party splits into two, two of the members will end up at Fifty Island Water. It's here that things will go pear-shaped as something comes in the wind and the party of two will then become a party of one. And then the one that disappeared will reappear. Or did he? Could it be something else?
This is a story that cursed with some incredibly racist stereotypes, slurs, and colloquialisms that will often make it a hard read at times, but, if you can get past that, what you have is a great story in which Blackwood expertly portrays the alienism of an isolated wilderness. This story is considered a classic in horror fiction, and the last half proves this to be true.
********Up next is 'The Thing From Outside' by George Allen England (1877-1936), and here we have another hunting party in the winter, this time in the woods of Hudson Bay. This party of five is stranded as their guides have already been slaughtered, and now the party is trying to get home. And now this . . . something . . . starts picking them off one at a time, and then they start turning on each other. A dynamite story that is marred by only having some rather unsympathetic characters, but still, the plot is classic; it's still being used in movies and books today, the writing is brisk, and the story moves. England also wrote the classic "Darkness and Dawn" novels.
********'The Thing That Walked On The Wind' is the first of three August Derleth (1909-71) stories in this anthology. This is the story that introduces the modern version of Ithaqua to the masses. Here. three bodies fall from the sky, one dead and two dying. All are from the isolated village of Stillwater, a village where the total populace has been "disappeared". Then it gets worse, all those that had seen Ithaqua when the bodies had fallen to the earth start to disappear. One of the bedrock stories of the Cthulhu Mythos. Without Derleth and his keeping the flame of Lovecraft alive, Lovecraft would have been just another obscure pulp writer.
********'The Snow-Thing' is the second Derleth story, and it deals with another mysterious disappearance. This time it's a man who screws around with the wrong Indian tribe, and again people start to die, rather dated in its attitudes toward Native Americans, but still, it only really suffers some from because it is reprinted right after the similarly plotted previous story. But, despite being a predictable pulp horror story, I liked it, but then I like most of Derleth's stories.
********'Beyond The Threshold' is the third Derleth story in this anthology. Tony has gotten a letter from his cousin Frolin that he should come to his ancestral home because something really odd has gone wrong with his beloved and respected grandfather. And something certainly IS wrong, as Tony's grandfather has been reading the personal papers of one of his ancestors, and now he wants to find the legendary threshold to the dimension where Ithaqua walks. Does he succeed? Well, it wouldn't be much of a story if he didn't. Would have made a great radio play.
********Up next is the Derlethinan fan fiction 'Born Of The Winds' by Brian Lumley (1937-), and David is a meteorologist who is recovering from an illness at his friend's house in Navissa, Manitoba when he comes across the books of Samuel R. Bridgeman and his unorthodox archeological theories dealing with wind gods. Bridgeman had made an ill-fated expedition to investigate the Ithaqua legend, an expedition that would end in death, and a pregnancy. Now twenty years later David, and Bridgeman's widow, will trek to the ghost town of Stillwell to find her son who has run away to find his past. This will be a meeting that will not end well for anybody. A typically excellent Lumley story by the man who would invent the Necroworld.
********'Spawn Of The North' by George C. Diezel II and Gordon Linzner (1949-) is a historical story set during the Gold Rush. Ray's a new in an unnamed mining town, and being a Texan and hungry, he's interested in old Jac's stories of a mountain of gold, and of the Wendigo. And it is here at the Lucky Nugget that Ray meets Monty, and both will end up robbing the camp's safe, and heading out over the winter snows, only to find horror awaiting them. A fun story of pure melodrama, pulp action horror, and two-fisted characters clean out of a Robert Howard story. Linzner edited the influential small-press magazine "Space & Time" for forty years.
********'They Only Come Out At Night' by Randy Medoff is about how on a Himalayas expedition to investigate the Yeti, several men will find what they're looking for in a manner that they weren't looking for. Short and sweet.
********'Footsteps In The Sky' is first of two stories by Pierre Comtois, and it is set during the Russian counter-revolution and during one of Russia's brutal winters. Here, the reporter Mathias Cordell, will get involved in investigating the mysterious disappearance of the villagers of Goradov. The story has much going for it, and it had a good build-up, but for me the ending was just anti-climatic, with the story leaving little impression on me.
********Joseph Payne Brennan (1918-90) was always one of my favorite authors, and in 'Jendick's Swamp' Kirk and his friend, and town constable, Chris Kellington decide, because there have been too many reported mysterious disappearances, to visit the mysterious Jendick family home in the middle of Jendick's Swamp. A good solid, weird pulp story that somehow manages to wed Derleth's Ithaqua, the weird menace story, pulp suspense, and horror together into a satisfying read. If you liked Robert Howard's 'Pigeons From Hell' you might like this. Also, check out Brennan's classic story 'Levitation'.
********A member of The October Society, which is a gathering of fans of the macabre, decides to tread heavily instead of lightly in 'The Wind Has Teeth' by G. Warlock Vance and Scott H. Urban, and gets trod upon instead by the deity of a long gone Indian tribe. Maybe not great literature, but great fan fiction.
********'Stalker Of The Wild Wind' by Stephen Mark Rainey (1958-) falls into one of my favorite transgenres; weird war stories. The narrator is now in his nineties, and he's telling a story of a redefining incident in his life. During WWI Rittmeister Klaus von Moltke has had a spectacular career as a flying ace, and now the Rittmeister is involved in an equally spectacular dogfight in which the flying ace has gone from being the hunter to being the hunted. Then in an effort to avoid being another war statistic, Moltke takes evasive measures only to find himself passing through a veil of clouds into an unknown land while taking his two pursuers with him. Then all three realize that THEY are now being pursued by a huge cloud, and wind, walking creature/demon. What do you do when you're a pilot, you're being hunted, and there's nowhere to go? Rainey's story is, to me, a modern weird story classic that should be mandatory reading, and if it had published during the fifties it would be constantly in print. Derleth would have loved this story. I read this when it was first published, when it was republished in this anthology, and when I re-read it again for this review, and I've never forgotten it, and it never ceases to entertain. Fans of the G-8 series will love it. A great tribute to both Derleth, and a more innocent time in warfare. Rainey also edited and published the great "Deathrealm" magazine.
********'The Country Of The Wind' by Contois is his second story here, and it seems that editor Price was much more taken with this story than I was. At some indeterminate date a hunter stumbles unto the dead town of Misty Meadows, which was destroyed in 1919. Then he finds the reason for the ghastly death of all the inhabitants, animal and human. The ending was pretty cliché, and as a whole, this story just left me rather "cold".
********Last up is the original story 'Wrath Of The Wind Walker' by fan favorite James Ambuehl, and here he contributes a by-the-numbers story in which a professor leads an expedition into Cambodia to look for a lost cult. The expedition finds it, there will be a predictable slaughter, and then there will be even more predictable results from that as those that have done this evil deed will get picked off over the years.
As a reader I can see how the writing styles of pop literature evolved. We start with the formality of Blackwood, move to the pulp narratives of Derleth, and finally to the more modern reader friendly texts of the later authors. The stories range from professional stand-alones to that of derivative fan fictions, and, all-in-all, even though this anthology had a few duds in it, I enjoyed reading, and re-reading it. I even liked the cover, although many didn't when it was first published, by H. E. Fassel (Harry E. Fassl: 1952-2008), who would die way too early.
For this site I also reviewed these other Mythos fictions and
Arkham Woods by Christopher Rowley & Jhomar Soriano. A graphic novel.
At The Mountain of Madness and other tales of terror by H. P. Lovecraft.
Black Wolf by Galad Elflandsson.
The Creeping Kelp by William Meikle.
Dead Sea by Tim Curran.
Deeper by James Moore
The Hive #1: Hive (The Hive Series) by Tim Curran.
The Hive #2: The Spawning: Book Two of The Hive Series by Tim Curran.
H. P. Lovecraft's Dark Arcadia: The Satire, Symbology and Contradiction by Gavin Callaghan. (non-fiction)
Predator X by C. J. Waller.
Space Eldritch edited by Nathan Shumate. Another anthology.
The Tales of Inspector Legrasse by H. P. Lovecraft & C. J. Henderson. A collection.