Monday, October 05, 2009

Lovecraft Unbound

I almost didn't buy this book. Knowing of my interest in the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Cliff had set a copy aside at his store for my perusal. I looked at the table of contents and only saw a couple of names I recognized. That's what put me off initially. Several times in the past I've bought collections of Lovecraft pastiches, only to find that the contributors weren't overly fond of or well versed in Lovecraft, and were presumably hired because they were friends of the editor who had an anthology to fill up. In that situation what you often end up with is warmed over Lovecraft, usually some tale of an unfortunate fellow who finds some ancient book or statue and is eaten by some gibbering slavering entity from the outer dark. Been there. Saw the movie. Designed the T-Shirt.
In the end it was Michael Chabon's name that caused me to pick up the book. I've read most of Chabon's books and never been disappointed, so I figured what the heck. Boy am I glad I did. I'm about halfway through the book and really enjoying the collection. Small author bios tell how each writer discovered the works of H.P. Lovecraft and how he influenced their work. So far everyone has been a Lovecraft fan and while I've enjoyed some stories more than others, I haven't hit a real clunker yet.
Standouts from the first half of the collection are: The Office of Doom by Richard Bowes, which does feature Lovecraft's most famous evil tome, but in a very original way. The Crevasse by Dale Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud, a tale that captures the spirit of Lovecraft without using a single one of his tropes. And my favorite so far, Houses Under the Sea, by Caitlin R. Kiernan, a beautifully written tale which manages to be a creepy, disturbing horror story and at the same time a memoir of a doomed romance.
Anyway, I'm really glad I didn't pass this one by, and I haven't even gotten to Michael Chabon's entry yet. Editor Ellen Datlow is to be congratulated for putting together an edgy, creepy anthology with some talented writers. The trade paperback is published by Dark Horse Comics and came out last week. The book is dedicated to H.P. Lovecraft and Datlow adds that she hopes he would approve. I think he would, and I know he would enjoy some of these weird tales tremendously.

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