the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘Lovecraftian

Garden of Eldritch Delights, by Lucy A. Snyder

published in 2018

where I got it: purchased new

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This book has been on my radar for a while.  It’s small press, so while I could have ordered a copy online anytime, I was hoping to find a printed copy in the wild.

 

It’s always nice when life hands you a two-fer.  I snagged a copy of Garden of Eldritch Delights at the dealer room at StokerCon in mid May, and then a few weeks later one of the stories in the collection, “Blossoms Blackened Like Dead Stars” was featured in Tor.com’s Lovecraft Reread series.  The stars must have been aligned! It was almost as if a strange force was arranging things so that I could read this book, and engage with the forbidden knowledge found within it’s pages . . .

 

Not sure what Lovecraftian fiction is?  Actually, you probably do. Ever played Arkham Horror? Ever read a Charles Stross Laundry novel? Did you read Ian Tregillis’s Milkweed Triptych or Elizabeth Bear’s Shoggoths in Bloom?   Authors love playing in Lovecraft land because you never run out of opportunities to provoke alien intelligences that are influencing humanity, elder creatures who view humans the way we view ants, forbidden knowledge,  people who aren’t quite human, unnerving horrors from below, and lots of other fun creepy and over the top stuff.  You’ve probably read something “lovecraftian” without even realizing it.

 

Here’s the thing tho –  H.P. Lovecraft was not a very good writer. Yeah, I said it. I’ve read his original and it’s . . .  ok? Kinda meh? I can appreciate his writing only because of where other writers went with it.

 

And where Lucy Snyder goes with it. . .  damn! Her delightfully dark collection Garden of Eldritch Delights takes Lovecrafts ideas of elder gods, humans enslaved by alien intelligences, mind control, and even evolution and the apocalypse, and more, and gives them a decidedly modern twist. If you enjoy modern takes on Lovecraftian fiction,  this is the short story collection for you! These stories are excellently written, enjoyable to read, and were just the right length for my short attention span. An unexpected surprise for me was how many of these stories revolve around sibling relationships.

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neat! My review of Pete Rawlik’s Reanimators posted over at SFSignal. If you’re up on your Lovecraftian canon, this is the book for you. Me, on the other hand, prefers what other authors have done with Lovecraftian mythos, rather than within in (Charles Stross, I am looking at you).

Here’s a teaser:

Odd things are afoot in the sleepy new England town of Arkham. Strange creatures stalk the night, and even stranger research is happening at and around Miskatonic University. Dr. Stuart Hartwell is determined to get his revenge on Dr. Herbert West, the twisted man whose reanimation experiments were responsible for the deaths of Hartwell’s parents. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft (and certain fans of some early 80s cheesy horror flicks) may recognize the title of the book and the name Herbert West.

Pete Rawlik’s Reanimators is certainly not a retelling of the original story “Herbert West – Reanimator“, but more a revisiting. When they first meet, Stuart Hartwell is a colleague of West’s, and suspects the strange medical student is up to no good. He spies on West and his friend Daniel Cain, sabotages their experiments and steals their research. Hartwell is determined to develop a safer reagent, one that won’t turn the resurrected people into violent zombies. After receiving his medical degree, Hartwell runs his physicians practice out of the first floor of his home, and it becomes more and more difficult to keep his co-workers from finding the basement laboratory that is nearly overrun with lab rats.

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When the hell did it get to the end of October? Halloween totally snuck up on me. You know, this is what I get for cancelling my cable TV.  when I had to watch commercials on TV I always knew what time of year it was.  No seasonally appropriate commercials = no clue what time of year it is.  And yes, I do own a calendar. Two of them in fact.

so anyways, I was looking for something appropriately creepy to read for Halloween, and I like my creepy shit on the bizarrely weird side. I know, I’ll read some Lovecraft!  Good thing I found this skinny little volume at a library booksale a while back!  At The Mountains of Madness (1936)  is sure to scare the shit out of me, right? And if I’m still breathing after I finish that one, I’ve got The Shunned House (1924), The Dreams in the Witch-House (1933), and The Statement of Randolph Carter (1919) to keep me up all night, wincing at shadows.
Today I’ll just review At The Mountains of Madness, and I’ll review the others in a different post.

At the Mountains of Madness, originally published in 1936

where I got it: purchased used.

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At the Mountains of Madness is told as a flashback by Professor Dyer.  He had been part of a scientific expedition to Antarctica, and he wants to make sure that no one else goes down there because of the horrible things he witnessed. After all these years of silence, he is ready to tell his tale. He goes into a lot of details about the size of the expedition, supplies taken, how they got there, how many airplanes they take, how many members of the expedition are pilots and such. Lovecraft is sort of setting this up as an adventure story, but you immediately know something awful is going to happen. Once settled, the expedition splits up, with Professor Lake taking more than half their planes and supplies to another location, where an amazing mountain range with cube shaped ramparts and huge mummified creatures are found.  Lake reports what he finds and how his autopsy of the creatures is progressing over the wireless, to the growing excitement of Dyer and the other members of the expedition.

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The Fuller Memorandum (a Laundry Novel), by Charles Stross

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: enjoyed the previous Laundry novel, The Jennifer Morgue

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Bob Howard has a problem. it’s that he’s too good at his job. The office manager leaves him alone; his boss, Angleton, is sending him on special errands; and his wife, Mo, has started bringing work home with her. When you’re a computational demonologist, none of those can be good things.  You see, Bob works for the ultra secret British government agency called The Laundry.  Think James Bond meets Torchwood, but instead of fighting the Russians and aliens, they’re fighting the Russians and unthinkable Cthonic soul sucking horrors from another dimension. When the end comes, make sure you’re armed with a shotgun (same goes for when playing Arkham Horror, btw).

Although The Fuller Memorandum is mostly action, usually involving Bob getting the crap kicked out of him, it was the slower parts that were some of my favorites. Things like getting to know more (perhaps too much) about the mysterious Angleton.  What Mo actually does with that bone white violin (she needs her own book. period). How to jailbreak an iphone in three easy steps (step one, allow a professional hacker into your house). How to handle Russian zombies and drunken cultists, and what the British secret service really thinks about Americans.  And Bob Howard, accidental computational demonologist, armed with a jailbroken unauthorized iphone running illegal apps, better solve all these problems before his soul gets sucked out by cultists who’ve awoken something far more evil than they were expecting. The slower bits might have been all interesting, but the crazy action bits? Totally over the top frakin’ awesome.

If you’re grinning, you can skip the next paragraph, however if you’re a bit confused, quit skipping around and stop feeling bad.

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You don’t read VanderMeer, you experience it, you swim through it, you breathe it, you smell it.  anyone who knows me knows that is one of the highest compliments I can give anything.  I made my way through The Third Bear, sometimes meandering, sometimes biting my nails, sometimes swimming through the salty surf.  Wherever VanderMeer took me, it wasn’t where I was expected. Most of these stories start out light if strange, and then the light turns to dark and the strange only gets perfectly stranger. They are startling and surreal, and much Lovecraftian deliciousness abounds.

So spoiled on epic series and 800+ page books, it’s no surprise I often have a tough time with short stories. What happened before? what happens next? who are these people? where the hell are we?  I don’t know what specifically I need for a short story to work for me, but I know VanderMeer does it.  Most of the stories contained in The Third Bear are told in first person, often by people who are at a crossroads – they’ve done something horrible, or they are about to.

I was happily surprised at how much of The Third Bear worked for me. On the rare occasion that I do pick up a book of short stories, I expect a bell curve of enjoyment: a few stories will knock my socks off, most of them will be OK, and a few will suck.  The Third Bear worked out pretty much like this: One entry didn’t do it for me, and the rest knocked my socks off to one extent or another. There is a reason I can’t say no to Jeff VanderMeer.

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  It’s Chanukah, so the timing is just right for my review of Lavie Tidhar and Nir Yaniv’s The Tel Aviv Dossier. Yet another book that looks like it would be religious, but isn’t. 

Taking place in an Israeli metropolis and peppered with Hebrew slang, this story of destruction, horror, and rebirth could happen anywhere. But trust me, you don’t want it to. The blurb on the back of the book says something about “Lovecraftian echoes”, and I got every bit of Lovecraftian horror I was hoping for. 

Something is happening in Tel Aviv. Something unexplainable, something horrible, and it’s happening right now. Tornadoes come out of the ocean, high winds pull people out of open windows and death is everywhere. Is it the apocalypse? The Messiah? Something else entirely? 

The first half of the book,  includes testaments, recordings, transcripts and digital recordings of people’s initial responses during the “event”. Jumping from character to character and neighborhood to neighborhood, there is Eli the sociopathic and demented fireman, Hagar the videographer, Daniel the Yeshiva dropout, and letters from random people, a child who sees the wind rip someone out of the sky and thinks it would be fun to fly. Some of these people survive the event, some of them don’t. 

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 A fter their guidance counselor father is brutally murdered by a deranged student, the Locke siblings Tyler, Kinsey and Bode move cross county with their mother from California to rural Massachusetts. The family mansion, known as Keyhouse, sits on the end of the island village of Lovecraft. The children explore their new home, and try to come to grips with their father’s death. 

Key house is full of magical doors. There is a door that makes you old, and one that makes you young. A door that changes your sex, and one that lets you teleport. But the doors are hidden, and some of them require a key. Bode finds a door that turns him into a ghost, and meets his echo in the wellhouse. Of course his older brother and sister don’t believe him. Everyone just thinks he’s acting out. His only friend is his echo, and she promises to be his friend, if he’ll help her with just a few little things.

Meanwhile, back in California, Sam Lesser, their father’s killer, escapes his mental hospital prison, and begins hitchhiking across country. He’s got a job to finish, and the means to do it. Someone has promised Sam eternal freedom, if he brings her two very specific keys, both of which are hidden somewhere in Keyhouse. 

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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.
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