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on December 12, 2016
If you are in to the Lovecraftian mythos, this is a good book for you. The only negative thing that I can think of to say about it is that some of the stories feel like a direct ripoff of some of Lovecraft's stories, which means that a lot of the plots and endings are highly predictable if you are familiar with the original Lovecraft stories. That being said, a decent percentage or the stories are completely original, and the ones that aren't still manage to be fun to read
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on September 23, 2014
_The Watchers Out of Time_ (2oo8) is a collection of fifteen old fashioned supernatural stories credited to H.P LOVECRAFT and august derleth. In fact, the stories were written exclusively by August Derleth between roughly 1953 and 1966. They were claimed by Derleth to be "posthumous collaborations" based on unpublished Lovecraftian writing. But Lovecraft scholars like S. T. Joshi long ago established that Lovecraft's contributions to these tales was minimal-- sometimes amounting to only a line or two. All of the stories in this book have been listed as "spurious Lovecraft stories," though publishers never seem to tire of palming them off as genuine Lovecraft stories. They range in quality from the awful ("The Shuttered Room" and "The Horror from the Middle Span"), to the routine pastiche ("The Shadow Out of Space" and "The Peabody Inheritance"), to the mildly imaginative ("The Survivor" and "The Gable Window"), to the above average ("The Fisherman of Falcon Point" and "The Lamp of Alhazred"). Since I have discussed many of these stories and their origins in some detail in reviews of other collections,* I have decided to look at Derleth's stories from another angle in this review. How well does he handle Lovecraftian diction-- words like cyclopean, eldrich, and antediluvean? (I systematically eliminated specialized words like Necronomicon, Dagon, Cthulhu, and Abdul Alhazred.)

Let us start by looking at the diction describing two monsters appearing in these pages:

"There, squatting in the midst of the tumbled bedding from that long-abandoned bed, sat a monstrous, leathery-skinned creature that was neither frog nor man, one gorged with food, with blood slavering from its batrachian jaws and upon its webbed fingers-- a monstrous entity that had strong, powerfully long arms, grown from its bestial body like those of a frog, and tapering off into a man's fingers, save for the webbing between the fingers..." ("The Shuttered Room,"158)

"This was the thing I had killed. Half-man, half-saurian, it was a ghastly travesty upon what had once been a human being. Its clothes were split and torn by the horrible mutilations of the flesh, by the crusted skin which had burst its bonds, its hands and unshod feet were flat, powerful in appearance, claw-like. I gazed in speechless terror at the shuddersome tail-like appendage which pushed bluntly out from the base of the spine, at the terrible elongated, crocodilian jaw, to which still grew a tuft of hair..." ("The Survivor," 24)

The first creature is a froglike monster (and therefore an amphibian). The second is a crocodile-type monster (and therefore a reptile). Derleth is thus perfectly correct to use "batrachian" ("amphibious") to describe the first creature. But in the buildup to the second tale, Derleth not only uses reptilian adjectives but also "batrachian" and "ichthic" ("fishlike") to describe his monster. The words may be visually impressive, but the biology isn't very sound.

But when we get to "The Fisherman of Falcon Point," we are clearly back to the word as it is meant to be used, describing a strange company of creatures off Devil's Reef, "neither entirely human nor entirely batrachian, amphibian creatures that passed through the water..." (165). They are gilled but leave webbed footprints on land.

The word "rugose" ("ruffled") has only one specialized use in the book that I know of-- but a noteworthy one. "Rugose cones" (102) is repeatedly used to describe the giant aliens from the library in "The Shadow Out of Space". I have not checked to see if Lovecraft used the word in "The Shadow Out of Time," but I bet he did.

"Eldrich" (meaning old and uncanny) is a word that Derleth loves to use. A partial listing of this word includes: "eldrich things" (4), "eldrich rites" (15), "eldrich customs" (32), and "eldrich books" (99). Perhaps I should say to readers at this point that "eldrich" never modifies _anything_ good. So if you are approached by a dark stranger with reptilian eyes and cold, fishlike breath and webbed fingers who offers you a position as a member of an eldrich organization, _turn him down flat_. Then pack your bags and get out of town while the getting is good.

I was never able to detect the use of "cyclopean" in this collection. But I did detect the use of "megalithic" (117) masonry to describe the alien architecture in "The Shadow Out of Space" and several uses of the word "colossal". Nor did I spot the use of "antediluvian" (before the flood). But there was a pretty impressive description of the "primeval Old Ones" (25). Here are some other Lovecraftian words that I have culled from the collection at random: "miasma" (13), "hallucinatory" (14), "gambrel-roofed" (25), "compendious" (31), "leathern" (58), "mummified" (58), "subterranean"(87), "phenomenom" (76), and "cataclysmic" (92).

So how well does August Derleth do when it comes to handling Lovecraftian diction? Pretty well, actually. I suspect that he uses some of the words a bit more than Lovecraft himself actually used them in his own stories. There are a few places where he slips over the meaning of the words. But not many. On the whole, his usage of words like batrachian, saurian, eldrich, ichthic, rugose, and subterranean seem to be those of a writer who knows their meaning.

You can argue that Derleth's diction is not as _creative_ as that of Lovecraft. But this is surely nit-picking. It is certainly a fairly good imitation. In this collection, you will find an assortment of Elder Gods, eldrich rituals, and batrachian, saurian, ichthic, and skeletal creatures. Plus several witches and warlocks. They may not be authentic Lovecraft stories. But they are authentic Lovecraft imitations.

*See my reviews of _The Survivor & Others_ (1957), by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth and _The Shuttered Room and Other Tales of Horror_(1971), by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth
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on October 8, 2017
HPL is the best
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on March 28, 2014
Good read but...
Good but not as good as HPL. Derleth and friends can't quite plumb the depths of horror like Lovecraft.
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on January 5, 2012
Glad to find some August Derleth, but this book only has one HP Lovecraft story in it. If it is pure Lovecraft you are looking for look to another book.
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on October 15, 2014
Thank you so much!
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on June 13, 2013
A collection of Lovecraft-themed tales by August Derleth. none actually written by H.P. Lovecraft ("HPL"). The collection reviewed here, THE WATCHERS OUT OF TIME, differs from the 1974 collection THE WATCHERS OUT OF TIME AND OTHERS only in that the 1974 version also contained the short novel "The Lurker on the Threshold", which nowadays is sold separately. Contents (with spoiler-free descriptions) are as follows:

[1] "The Survivor" (1954): Antiquarian investigates house on Benefit St. once owned by a strange French doctor. Partly inspired by HPL's "Shunned House".
[2] "Wentworth's Day" (1957): Traveler visits rural abode, whose sole deranged occupant drops gloating hints of a shocking crime. Partly inspired by HPL's "Picture in the House".
[3] "The Peabody Heritage" (1957): Peabody inherits rural mansion, and starts dreaming of great-grandpa & his creepy cat. Partly inspired by HPL's "Dreams in the Witch-House".
[4] "The Gable Window" (1957): An inheritor of a rural abode unwisely ignores his dead cousin's final instruction that he should destroy the weird glass pane in the attic window.
[5] "The Ancestor" (1957): Dr. Perry's weird research in ancestral memory is affecting his health.
[6] "The Shadow out of Space" (1957): Psychiatrist investigates amnesia case similar to that suffered by the protagonist in (you guessed it) HPL's "Shadow out of Time".
[7] "The Lamp of Alhazred" (1957): Like HPL's "The Silver Key", but with a mystic lamp (like the one from HPL's sonnet "The Lamp") instead of a mystic key. Protagonist is closely based on HPL.
[8] "The Shuttered Room" (1959): Outsider inherits old mill near Dunwich (the hick-town from HPL's "Dunwich Horror") with boarded-up attic room. Will he foolishly ignore his dead uncle's final instructions?
[9] "The Fisherman of Falcon Point" (1959): He fishes too close to Devil's Reef (from HPL's "Shadow over Innsmouth") and catches something weird in his net.
[10] "Witches' Hollow" (1962): Rural teacher tries to help pupil whose family seems in the grip of dark forces.
[11] "The Shadow in the Attic" (1964): Young man hopes to inherit house, haunted by a creepy blank-faced housekeeper. Will he defy his dead uncle's odd conditions, and instead heed the warnings of his smoking-hot fiance?
[12] "The Dark Brotherhood" (1966): They all look alike, and they all look like Edgar Allan Poe. But what are they up to?
[13] "The Horror from the Middle Span" (1967): What horrors are hidden within this ruined bridge near Dunwich? I honestly can't recall. And I only just read it.
[14] "Innsmouth Clay" (1969): Weird clay helps sculptor get in touch with his Innsmouth heritage.
[15] "The Watchers out of Time" (1974): Another outsider inherits property in Dunwich, and refuses to heed local warnings. Unfinished at Derleth's death in 1971, making it rather pointless.

Derleth originally billed these stories (and "Lurker on the Threshold") as "by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth", and called them "posthumous collaborations." This is perhaps not a complete lie -- they are allegedly inspired by HPL's notes and/or occasionally incorporate a line or a two that HPL actually did write. The 1991 Carroll & Graf edition (with clock, snake & fanged skull) deserves the lowest possible rating for deceptively billing HPL as sole author and suppressing Derleth's name. However, since Amazon tends to lump different editions together, my rating is simply for the quality of the stories. I have tried not to penalize them overmuch for not actually being by HPL.

The stories, to be fair, are not that bad. They are just not that good either. Derleth fails most miserably when he attempts to mimic an emphatic Lovecraftian climax, perhaps mainly due to his failure to build up the necessary mood. His mood tends to be almost cheerful (which is not in itself a bad thing), and (for instance) when we meet HPL's "Deep Ones" in these tales, they seem more like immortal mermaid fantasies than HPL's damned souls and accursed sea devils. Any sense of spiritual dread is entirely absent.

A charge often laid against Derleth is that he corrupted HPL's pure atheist-materialist mythos by imposing on it a Christian worldview. This charge is silly, in part because HPL's fictions (full of gods, devils and supernatural entities) obviously do not embody a atheist-materialist outlook to begin with (whatever HPL believed in "real life"). When (as in "Shadow out of Space") Derleth suggests that Christian myths are a distorted memory of alien warfare as filtered through alien propaganda, he does not (as the accusation claims) endorse the Christian worldview, but rather makes a direct attack on Christian belief of the sort that HPL's own fiction generally avoided. Meanwhile, you will find nothing here analogous to those occasional incidents in HPL's fiction where heros get saved and/or demonic forces get neutralized by crosses, or the Lord's Prayer, or lightning bolts from heaven. Such critics merely insult two things they dislike (Derleth and Christianity) by pretending they are connected. Derleth's efforts are not poor because they are pro- or anti-Christian. They are just poor.

Derleth, incidentally, also published HPL-themed fiction solely under his own name, which can be found under the titles MASK OF CTHULHU and TRAIL OF CTHULHU.
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on December 20, 2008
As I'm sure most people buying this know, this isn't really H.P. Lovecraft's writings, it's August Derleth's, expanding on Lovecraft's existing stories as well some some ideas Lovecraft never got around to writing. And I guess a few August Derleth originals.

Derleth is not a bad writer, but he is a bad mimicker of Lovecraft. So the most Lovecraftian of the stories are probably the worst. "The Shadow out of Space", for instance, is essentially the same plot as "The Shadow out of Time", only all the mystery and creepiness sucked out.

Probably the best of the Lovecraft-ish tales is "The Shuttered Room", which does a pretty good job of combining The Dunwich Horror and Shadow Over Innsmouth.

Far too many of the tales (including that one, actually) use the same exact plot: Person inherits a property, then discovers that the person he inherited it from was up to no good, which continues to happen beyond the grave.

Lovecraft almost used that device a couple of times, but he changed things a bit (like in The Call of Cthulhu, the person simple inherits some notes), when Derleth uses the devices, there's no subtlety.

One story, "The Lamp of Alhazred" is a very nice homage and tribute to Lovecraft. There a few other Innsmouth ones, one actually pretty decent ("Innsmouth Clay")

The title story is unfinished, and on the face of it, seems to have a very similar plot as "The Lurker at the Threshold" (a novel by Derleth under Lovecraft's name), only told from the narrator's point of view and set in Dunwich.

All in all, if you are a Lovecraft fan or a completest, it's worth picking up. But for most others it a pass.
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on November 21, 2013
This collection was hit or miss. The biggest thing that stuck out is there are at least 3 stories that have someone inheriting an old creepy house from ancestors that were cultists. The title story is actually unfinished and hence a waste of time. A couple others are interesting and couple other not so good. It's hard to tell what's Lovecraft's and what's Derleth's but I would say Lovecraft fans could live without this collection and not be the worse for it.

I read most of this with my girlfriend. It was her first experience with Lovecraft/Cthulhu and she loved it even though the stories were definitely not the best HP has to offer. Now she's reading At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror.
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on September 22, 2008
Lovecraft's macabre and horror stories have fascinated for the last eighty years, and have spawned a full-blown mythos expanded upon by more and more writers cranking away to this day. Many of his stories - The Call of Cthulhu, A Shadow over Innsmouth, At The Mountains of Madness - are simply classics of the genre. But that doesn't mean that every such story based on the same themes is excellent, unfortunately.

This collection of stories written with August Derleth mines the same material again and again, and without doing much to enhance it. Even stories the Lovecraft fan has never heard of before follow such a rigid formula that there seems little point in reading them. A young man will have bought/inherited an old house not far from Arkham, be warned by letters/the will/neighbors to abandon the place but won't do so, will discover books and writings (always the same ones from story to story), and gradually the horror of what is going on with him/the house/his ancestors will dawn on him. It's good stuff once or twice, but lazy writing after the fifth or sixth time in one book. I guess that's why it was called pulp fiction.

There are no classics here - maybe Innsmouth Clay or The Lamp of Alhazred - but Lovecraft fans will most likely enjoy the 15 stories nonetheless. Space your reading out over time, or the sheer repitition of most everything from story to story will grate. There are better Lovecraft books and there are much better Derleth collections as well.
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