- Paperback: 280 pages
- Publisher: Chaosium; Third Printing edition (June 15, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 156882260X
- ISBN-13: 978-1568822600
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Nyarlathotep Cycle: Stories about the God of a Thousand Forms (Chaosium fiction) Paperback – June 15, 2006
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This collection starts with three short prose pieces.
The first two are excerpts from Lord Dunsany, highlighting the possible origin of the name and concept from which Lovecraft created his Nyarlathotep. They are only tangentially related to the rest of the stories, however, and could have easily been left out (or explained in the introduction).
Then follows Lovecraft's short prose poem, featuring the first appearance of Nyarlathotep in the Mythos. This is a short, but atmospheric piece that sets the stage for the rest of the stories.
Unfortunately, it is followed by three more poems. They don't add too much to the concept and, again, could have been left out.
As usual, a couple of Lovecraft stories starts off the collection proper - The Dreams in the Witch House and The Haunter of the Dark. A follow-up story by August Derleth, The Dweller in Darkness, is next. Since most Mythos fans are familiar with these works I won't waste time commenting on them here.
Here's what I thought about the rest of the offerings...
The Titan in the Crypt, by J.G. Warner, is a cross between The Festival and Pickman's Model. It is set in New Orleans, and tells the story of a dark ceremony that takes place at the end of Mardi Gras each year, far below the surface of the French Quarter.
Fane of the Black Pharoah, by Robert Bloch, is about a British archaeologist who has an unhealthy interest in the secret lore of the Egyptians. I think Bloch's Mythos stories are some of the most creative. They carry just the right mix of dark humor and menace. This piece introduces the Black Pharoah, also known as Nephren-Ka, who often serves as Nylarathotep's physical embodiment or historical double.
The Curse of the Black Pharoah, by Lin Carter, is your pretty standard mummy story and coming in at 75 pages it is the longest one of the bunch. Much like The Dunwich Horror, it features a learned scholar (the occult detective, Anton Zarnak) facing off against an unspeakably evil entity. Some Mythos fans think Carter's stories are sub par, but I think he's okay in small doses.
The following two stories, The Curse of Nephren-Ka by John Cockcroft and The Temple of Nephren-Ka by Philip J. and Glenn A. Rahman use the same basic plot, telling of the discovery of Nephren-Ka's final resting place. I prefer the latter, just for the fact that it was slightly longer and more fleshed out. I'm not sure why the former story was included at all, since it is barely four pages long.
The Papyrus of Nephren-Ka by Robert C. Culp is essential a scientific treatise about the place of Nephren-Ka in the dynasty of the Egyptian pharaohs and Nylarathotep's sinister role in his reign.
The last short story in the collection is The Snout in the Alcove by Gary Myers. This is a tale set in the Dreamlands of Lovecraft. Taken by itself it is a perfectly fine story, bu unfortunately it doesn't really fit in with the theme or style of the others. The only connection to Nylarathotep I can see is a passing reference about his second coming signaling the approaching apocalypse.
The book then ends with more poems about Nylarathotep - one by Richard L. Tierney and five by Ann K. Schwadder.
Looking back, this collection is hampered by two things. First, there are only seven "new" stories here that haven't been repeatedly reprinted in other collections. Secondly, there's only so many different ways to tell a mummy story.
"Likewise, for Nyarlathotep to be 'chaos' refers to the state of Pure Being, before the first moment of its illusory refraction into seeming differentiation. It is this state of TATHATA ('suchness') of SUNYATA ('emptiness', 'void') that the mystic seeks to penetrate -- some by simple meditation upon the Oneness; others by fantastic and, in the case of Saivite-Buddhist Tantra, grotesque techniques, such as sex-mysticism or the gustatory transgressions of the corpse-eating cult of Leng."
Bob's introductions drive some readers bug-debauched -- but I find them fun, wry, informed and very cool.
The contents of the book is:
"Alhireth-Hotep the Prophet" by Lord Dunsany
"The Sorrow of Search" by Lord Dunsany
"Nyarlathotep" by H. P. Lovecraft
"Three Poems" by William Butler Yeats, Robert E. Howard, and H. P. Lovecraft
"The Dreams in the Witch House" by H. P. Lovecraft
"The Haunter of the Dark" by H. P. Lovecraft
""The Dweller in Darkness" by August Derleth
"The Titan in the Crypt" by J. G. Warner
"Fane of the Black Pharaoh" by Robert Bloch
"Curse of the Black Pharaoh" by Lin Carter
"The Curse of Nephren-Ka" by John Cockroft
"The Temple of Nephren-Ka" by Philip J. and Glen A. Rahman
"The Papyrus of Nephren-Ka" by Robert C. Culp
"The Snout in the Alcove" by Gary Myers
"The Contemplative Sphinx" by Richard L. Tierney
"Ech-Pe-El's AEgypt: Lovecraftian Poems" by Ann K. Schwader
I was especially pleased to see the wonderful story by Gary Myers, which originally appeared in Lin Carter's YEAR'S BEST FANTASY STORIES: 3, but was substantially rewritten for its appearance in this Chaosium book. Myers is one of the most original and talented of modern Mythos writers, with a wonderful style, serious and yet with a subtle sense of play. This story is wonderful.
I was also happy to see all of the poetry in this volume, all of which is extremely fine. Schwader's poetry always thrills me, to the point where I cannot resist quoting the opening stanza of one of the poems herein, "The Elder Lords" (inspir'd by HPL's "The Festival," that fascinating if minor tale):
Alhazred dreamed them, at the last:
Their city old as Sarnath's doom,
Half-buried by an age of sand
Like bleached bones in a broken tomb;
Their walls so weirdly wrought & low,
Misshapen by geometry
Not of this world, nor any place
A mind less mad than his might see.
Nyarlathotep's appearance in "The Dreams in the Witch House" has always annoyed me -- as does that very odd yet fascinating tale. "The Haunter of the Dark" is my favourite tale by H. P. Lovecraft, for I love its spooky Gothic atmosphere and its evocation of haunted Providence. My favourite story in the book is "The Titan in the Crypt". It is a marvelous example of a tale that is authentically LOVECRAFTIAN without being Cthulhu Mythos; it moves at a lively pace, it excites one's imagination fully, the narrative flows, and I could sense that crypt and its titan representation of the Dark God. Excellent!
Derleth's story was one of my all-time favourite Mythos tales when I first began reading in the genre, and it still entertains me to this day. Derleth is often dismissed as an author of Lovecraftian horror, but at times he could be quite interesting, inventive and, in his own fashion, Lovecraftian. This is one of his best efforts. It is, of course, not without its stupidities. The suggestion that the Great Old Ones are somehow related to the elements of earth (fire, water, air, earth) is simply absurd -- these creatures have no relationship to earth whatsoever, they are completely alien, from cosmic realms or alternative dimensions. That Derleth felt the need to create a fire "god" is laughable, and yet there are some wonderful moments of horror. The story is heavily influenced by Lovecraft's "The Whisperer in Darkness." One of its very amusing moments is when one of the characters reads from the just-published book, THE OUTSIDER AND OTHERS, published by Arkham House and August Derleth!
S. T. Joshi has often dismissed the idea that Lovecraft's Great Old Ones are "gods," saying that they are "merely" aliens from cosmic space in most cases. This can in no way be used in such cases as Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep. They are beings from beyond mundane time and dimensional space. They are AWESOME!
This is a great wee book -- but I cringe when I see the prices being asked here at Amazon. I find it utterly eldritch, the way some fiends like to rip people off.