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on July 13, 2008
Among the most influential of horror novelists is H.P. Lovecraft, and this is appropriate. His tales of weird fiction are still in their own little niche. Thematically, most of his stories fit into two categories which are not exclusive: there are things that man is not meant to know, and there are places that have a certain wrongness. Unlike most horror novelists who may provide a typical happy endings with evil vanquished, there is little such joy at the end of a Lovecraft story; for Lovecraft, merely surviving the horror with sanity intact is the best that can be hoped for.

The Transition of H.P. Lovecraft, subtitled The Road to Madness offers glimpses into some of his earliest work and shows how it evolved over time. As would be expected, the very earliest tales are not all that great. Tales like "The Beast in the Cave" are purely second-rate, but even here, Lovecraft's narrative style can be seen.

Most of the early stories are short (less than 10 pages), but as you progress through these 29 tales, the stories get generally longer. Rather than discussing all of them, I just want to point out a noteworthy few. "Herbert West - Reanimator" is the source story for what is probably the most well-known Lovecraft adaptation, Reanimator, and though many of the details differ between text and film, the premise remains the same: Herbert West seeks a method for bringing life to the dead (a la Frankenstein) and becomes one of Lovecraft's victims to the pursuit of forbidden knowledge.

"Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" is a collaboration with Harry Houdini (of which Lovecraft did most of the work) featuring the celebrated magician trapped in an Egyptian tomb. "At the Mountains of Madness" - by far the longest story at nearly 100 pages, follows an Antarctic excursion that unearths an ancient city that hints at a dark history from many years past. This novella is the most Lovecraftian story in the collection, with plenty of references to Cthulhu and the Old Ones. On the other hand, perhaps the most atypical in the bunch is "In the Walls of Eryx", a straight science fiction story dealing with a treasure hunter on Venus lured into a sophisticated trap by the locals; there are a few Lovecraftian touches, but for the most part, this is old-fashioned sci-fi, probably a change of pace due to the collaborator, Kenneth Sterling.

Just because you might enjoy authors like Stephen King, Clive Barker or F. Paul Wilson (all of whom have been influenced by Lovecraft) does not mean you will enjoy this book or Lovecraft's other works. Lovecraft's narrative style has a definite Nineteenth Century feel, with an emphasis on description over action, dialogue or even character. Lovecraft is also a product of his era with racial views that are, to say the least, not politically correct, and females have almost no presence at all in his stories. In short, you may need patience to enjoy Lovecraft, but - even if this collection is not his "greatest hits" - there is definitely some material to enjoy in this book.
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on June 17, 2006
This is an anthology of some of the best works of Howard Philips Lovecraft (HPL), a pulp horror- and science fiction- writer of the 1920s and 30s. Lovecraft had a distinctive style of writing, meant to convey through description an atmosphere of awe and wonder of the universe, which he believed a rational mind would experience as horror. His works have influenced generations of writers including Stephen King, Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, and Robert Howard. The content of THE ROAD TO MADNESS is some of HPLs most evocative, chilling, and enduring tales. And I almost missed them.

You see, I thought I had everything by Lovecraft. But I would catch allusions to things like the "Martense kin", "the U-Boat", and Arthur Jermyn. I couldn't find these references in any of my books, when I realized I was missing THE TOMB. Rather than buy this out-of-print book, I picked up ROAD TO MADNESS. It has served me well as a general collection of the most enduring elements of Lovecraft's fiction. The 3 Del Rey collections (ROAD TO MADNESS, BEST OF HP LOVECRAFT, DREAM CYCLE OF HP LOVECRAFT) are pretty comprehensive of HPLs corpus. I am posting below a list of the contents of THE ROAD TO MADNESS under the heading of other sources for the same stories, to let you decide how much overlap it has with other anthologies you might own.


"At the Mountains of Madness "

"The Evil Clergyman"

"The Shunned House"


"The Crawling Chaos"

"The Festival"

"In the Walls of Eryx"



"The Tomb"

"The Tree"

"Under The Pyramids"



"Arthur Jermyn"

"The Lurking Fear"

"The Moon-Bog"

"The Temple"

"The Unnameable"

"The White Ship"


"The Alchemist"

"The Beast in the Cave"

"The Book"

"The Festival"


"The Horror at Red Hook"

"In the Walls of Eryx"

"Poetry and the Gods "

"The Street"

"The Tomb"

"The Transition of Juan Romero"

"Under the Pyramids"

[Possibly no other source]

"Cool Air"

"Herbert West, Reanimator"
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on December 11, 2015
H.P. Lovecraft is amazing. This book is of great quality and well-put together. I'll enjoy this for many years to come.
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on August 8, 2017
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on October 10, 2005
I have thought long and hard of how I should contribute a review of The late Howard Philips' Lovecraft for fear that I would not do as good a job as the writer justly deserves. After reading not only what is considered his greatest stories, but a great many of his less famed ones as well, I think that finally I've found a means to give definition to the man's craft. In this review, I will speak of his writing in general, and not just the book above, which caters to a handful of his stories anyway.

Lovecraft's writing has been called fantastic and macabre, has been labeled under the categories of horror, fantasy and science fiction, and after reading most, if not all of his printed stories, I can honestly attest to the fact that all of these terms are true. However, they are not what people today might consider a true science fiction, fantasy or horror story. His science fictions are not set on a starship enterprise, or in the future where we war with other alien races over territories in space-instead, Lovecraft brings an alien germ to our planet, which can't be studied or compared with our own deadly germs since its properties are unknown, in which case, we can do nothing but hope it goes away before it kills us all, or...he brings to us an alien race that has dwelt secretly among us in order to conduct bizarre and often gruesome experiments with our bodies.

His fantasies are not set in any imaginary world like in Lord of the Rings. Pretty much all his stories start off with a good foot in reality, leaving little room for fantasy. In fact, the fantasy doesn't come into play until the very end of each story-until the very last few chapters, and sometimes, until the very last few paragraphs.

For me, I feel the most dominant element here is horror. Lovecraft often makes much emphases on secret occults, that no neo-pagan would appreciate, which are often described as evil and sacrifice both animals and children to their evil Gods. The man, or main character, who for some reason feels he needs to unearth these cults-almost always finds himself on the brink of insanity-if not completely insane-by the time he discovers the things these secretive people worshipped are not as fabled as he originally thought. Even in Lovecraft's fantasy stories, the protagonist always meets with sudden and unexpected shock after discovering the many worlds which converge with ours-often ending up dead or in a state of maniacal laughter which later gets him thrown into a sanatorium. So, no matter what genre a Lovecraft story may seem to embrace, all embrace some aspect of horror.

I would also like to state that the writing itself-although very well done-is not what we have grown accustomed to in our modern age where writers are forced to get to the point as quickly as possible. Lovecraft's old style of writing almost always covers the character's professional background, (there wasn't any attempt to bring emotional involvement between reader and character from what I can recall) before actually getting to the story. And when the story finally begins, he tediously lays down fact after fact as a mystrey slowly unravels before the story starts to really kick in. Like I've already mentioned, the fantasy doesn't come into play until the very end of each story. There is also little to no dialog in most of his stories, which was typical for his time. And the writing itself described no action-it's all pretty much telling. This, to some, may seem to drag. Some may also find his writing far fetched. I'll give an example here, from this small piece which for some reason I grew fond of, from his story, `Shadow Out of Space':

"Primal myth and modern illusion joined in their assumption that mankind is only one-if not least-of the highly evolved and dominant races of this planet's long and largely unknown career. Things of inconceivable shape, they implied, had reared towers to the sky and delved into every secret of nature before the first amphibian forbear of man had crawled out of the hot sea three hundred million years ago."

And it's not just this one piece-the whole of all his stories are like this, and it's true some people will not much care for his style of writing. It is not what we are use to.

Lovecraft has spent countless hours during his lifetime motivating young amateur writers who found inspiration in his work. He has even developed a literary cult which still exists today (and they have no shame calling themselves just that) which use his mythological monstrosities to create a foundation for their own stories. (Lovecraft encouraged this). Somehow, and this one is beyond me, even a card game was developed based on his monsters, as well as a few PC games. And here and there, throughout other fictions, I can't help but notice the similarities between his fiction and the fiction of today's writers.

If you wish to own a large and fulfilling collection of his works, these are my three recommendations: "The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and The Macabre", "The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft: Dreams of Terror and Death", and, "The Transition of H.P. Lovecraft: The Road to Madness." Each of these contain several of his stories, including all his best, some of which were turned into movies such as, `The Dunwich Horror,' `The Shadow Over Innsmouth,' which became a movie called, `Dagon,' and, of course, `Re-animator.' All utterly failed to capture the true Lovecraft.

If you want to just get a taste of the Lovecraft experience (which it has come to be known) I recommend these three popular favorites: "The Call of Cthulhu (Horror)," "The Shadow Over Innsmouth (Horror)," "The Whisperer in Darkness (Science Fiction," "The Colour Out of Space (Science Fiction)" "The Doom that came to Sarnath (Fantasy)," and, "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (Fantasy)." All of which I'm sure you can find individually somewhere.
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Excellent book featuring many of Lovecraft's earlier works into his middle writing period. Some great stories in this volume. Buy it if you enjoy some creepy Lovecraft stories in a condensed volume.
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on April 4, 2016
It's all Lovecraft. What's not to like?
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on February 22, 2016
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on July 29, 2013
I loved Lovecraft when I first read him as a "tween" some 53 years ago. This is simply a re-packaging of some of his work, and as such, still great. A special treat for those reader who appreciate an incredible command of an incredible and incredibly emotive, vocabulary. if you're into minimalism, avoid HPL. If you love language, you're in for quite a ride.
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on January 4, 2016
But be wary, I'm a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft and I do enjoy these collected issues, some of the stories are gripping and some fall flat. Not to say they are bad just not my cup of tea.
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