the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘Cthlulhu mythos

Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories by Joe R. Lansdale

published October 2018

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean Press!)

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You probably recognize Joe R. Lansdale’s name from his famous Hap and Leonard series, and fans of absurd comedy-horror will recognize his name from the novella turned movie Bubba Ho-Tep.

 

His recent short story collection Driving to Geronimo’s Grave and Other Stories offers an odd yet satisfying mix of stories. There’s a little bit of everything in here – post apocalyptic, Depression era drama, the Old West,  wrestling, you name it. For the most part, these stories involve characters who have good intentions, people who are trying to do the right thing surrounded by societies that a broken down, corrupt, and in one case even a Lovecraftian hellscape.  The environments these characters are thrown into – no good can come out of these places. But these are all Lansdale characters, which means they will tell all the things that are working against them to fuck right off.

 

Each story is followed by Lansdale’s notes – was the story written for a particular editor or anthology? What was he thinking about when he wrote the stories? I wish these notes had preceded the stories instead of followed them, I found my interest grew when I started reading his notes first. (Update from the publisher:  The final version of the book has his notes before each story. I was reading an ARC.)

 

Before you hop into Driving to Geronimo’s Grave,  be aware that these are not science fiction of fantasy stories – This is character driven American Literature – only some of which has SF-nal or supernatural elements.  And if you are offended by swear words, don’t even pick this book up.

 

Here are my thoughts on the stories I enjoyed most.

 

My stand out favorite story was the Lovecraftian “In the Mad Mountains”  (2015). Survivors of a shipwreck find themselves on an icy plain. They can freeze to death, or try to survive.  Amelia and Gavin explore the area, find supplies, and try to guess where they are. It’s obvious there is some kind of creature who has picked off other people who may have found themselves here, and the mishmash of shipwrecks doesn’t make any sense at all.  It’s terrifying, yet Amelia stays cool and has a scientific curiosity about where they may be. When the two of them find an airplane that appears to be in perfect working order, is it a trap, or an escape? If you’ve ever read any of Lovecraft’s original Cthulhu mythos short stories, you know a goodly chunk of it borders on unreadably bad.  But I love the idea of deep ones, of gods who wants and desires humans can never understand, I enjoy the mythos. “In The Mad Mountains” was an excellent combination of the mythos and inescapable terror I enjoy, combined with well paced action and smart characters.

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You can read Equoid over at Tor.com! and I should have mentioned in my earlier review of Wakulla Springs that that novella is available to read over at Tor.com as well.

 

If you’ve enjoyed any of Stross’s Laundry novels, you’re sure to get a kick out of this novella. Oh, you haven’t read any of his Laundry novels? In that case you might feel a little lost (until of course, Bob gives you some background. Then you’ll be fine). Also, you are missing out on some hella fun novels. Here’s the gist of the world: The right mathematical equations call up Cthonic horrors from the deep, and   a  British secret agency exists to make sure that doesn’t happen. Bob Howard is an involuntary agent for the Laundry (because really, does anyone have a childhood dream of growing up to face unspeakable soul destroying horrors?), and even after years on the job he still gets the shit work.

 

One thing I love about the Laundry novels is the narrative voice. It’s what I’ve come to call “The Stross Sentence”, where many passages start out completely normal, but conclude in a sotto voce that’s purposely scathingly sarcastic. I’m that reader who just can’t get enough of that.

 

So anyway, the novella.  It’s about unicorns. And H.P. Lovecraft’s previously unpublished rambling letters that prove (again) just how dangerous a little bit of knowledge can be.  Bob’s newest assignment takes him out to a muck filled country horse breeding farm, where he’s to investigate some kind of animal health issue? Something involving a, erm, infestation?

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atrocityStrossThe Atrocity Archives, by Charles Stross (The Laundry Files, book 1, also includes the novella The Concrete Jungle)

published in 2004

where I got it: purchased new (not in 2004. closer to last year)

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finally! I have finally read the first Laundry novel!  and learned two things: You can read these out of order and do just fine, and the first book is decent but not the best in the series. For fans of Stross’s Laundry series this is a must-read, and if you’re not a fan, start with the 2nd or 3rd  book in the series, work your way backwards, and then you’ll be a fan, so you’ll want to read it.

Bob Howard is not a hero. He doesn’t kick ass, he can’t keep his roommates from trashing the house, and cops are embarrassed if they have to work with him. Bob is your average IT professional, a super nerdy guy who spends his days checking the network for viruses, keeping spam out your e-mail, and avoiding his supervisor, which is totally okay because she’s an absolute bitch.  Bob’s problem is that he’s way too good at what he does. So good in fact, that he can’t help but get involved when things go to shit, especially when the jackass from accounting gets himself possessed by a Lovecraftian intelligence during a training class.

IT jokes? Lovecraftian horrors?  If you’re not into IT or Cthulhu, don’t worry, there’s no experience needed to enjoy The Laundry.  Everything is explained. For god sakes, these books are how I got into Cthulhu mythos in the first place! and what isn’t explained in easy to understand language is glossed over in purposely arcane and sometimes sarcastic infodumps.

The Atrocity Archives is where it all begins (well,  not where it all begins, but you know what I mean). We learn how Bob got “invited” to join the Laundry, his bachelor-esque life before Mo, and how many mainline supervisors he had to piss off to end up in Angleton’s office.  It looks like fantasy horror, but The Laundry books are really hard scifi thrillers. Mathematics are the name of the game here, where changing a variable gets you from pie are squared to Azathoth coming up your bathtub drain. If you’re the scientist who hits on which variable and what to change it to, you can expect a call from The Laundry.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.