"Lovecraft's Monsters" Book Review
Edited by Ellen Datlow
2014, 432 pages, Fiction
Released on April 15th, 2014
Lovecraftian horror is the richest and most diverse subgenre in horror fiction. From poorly crafted fanfiction to outstanding and entirely unique narratives by some of today's most talented authors, HPL's mythology is a strong constant in the world of horror. In the case of Lovecraft's Monsters, edited by the great Ellen Datlow, the quality of the stories is both a celebration of HPL's legacy and a reminder of the wealth of talent the genre has to offer.
After an introduction by Datlow in which she openly discusses what she wanted to accomplish with the anthology, the stories start, and there's about 400 pages of them. While the book kicks things off with a story by superstar author Neil Gaiman, the first one to impress me was actually the second, Laird Barron's "Bulldozers". This one has the author's great storytelling skills bring to life a weird Western world inhabited by characters that wouldn't be out of place in a bizarro story but that work really well with Barron's outstanding prose.
Another favorite is Brian Hodge's "The Same Deep Waters as You". This narrative, which deals with an expert who's brought to a military prison to help facilitate communication with residents from Innsmouth that the FBI took from their town back in the 1920s, is one I had read before and wanted to read again, but always failed to remember where I'd encountered it. Now I know where that was and why it stuck with me. Innsmouth and Dagon have always had a special place in my heart, and Hodge caters to that perfectly.
Steve Rasnic Tem's "Waiting at the Crossroads Motel" is also memorable, but more for the tension and sense of impending doom than for anything truly horrific. The story deals with a strange man who drags his family out to a cheap motel while he waits for something to happen. That something, however, is not the point; the focus here is on atmosphere, and the author nails it.
Joe Lansdale is one of my favorite authors, and he delivers yet again here. His contribution, "The Bleeding Shadow", is one that, surprisingly, I hadn't read before. As always, Lansdale plays around mixing genres and delivers something that walks the line between a great PI noir narrative and the supernatural.
The last story I'm going to focus on is Nick Mamatas' "That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable". Mamatas is one of those rare authors who's understood that great Lovecraftian fiction is about taking what HPL created and turning it into something entirely new. In this short tale, he takes people, booze, a cave, and shoggoths and blends them all into an apocalyptic narrative that feels 100% Lovecraftian but is simultaneously all Mamatas.
With names like Thomas Ligotti, John Langan, and Caitlín R. Kiernan on the table of contents, I could keep talking about great stories for a few pages, but those mentioned above should give readers a taste of the quality of Lovecraft's Monsters. It's simple: if you like Lovecraftian fiction, you need to get this.