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Review: Billy Lovecraft Saves the World January 17, 2015

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews, Lovecraft.
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Here’s another review of another book received as a free e-galley in exchange for a review. I’ve also posted versions of the review to Netgalley and Amazon.ca.

There are two ways to look at this book. The first is to assume the author is playing it straight, and that this is a book for young readers that happens to involve H.P. Lovecraft’s concepts instead of the more generic fantasy elements in the likes of Harry Potter. The other is to see it as part of the Lovecraft mashup trend of recent years, in which writers like Nick Mamatas and others cross Lovecraft with other writers or genres, like the Beats, Hunter S. Thompson, etc.

I started writing with the assumption that the book was indeed an attempt to do a middle grades book for kids that happens to be about the Cthulhu Mythos (in this case, more about Nyarlathotep, but anyway). I found myself gradually shifting to the second.

I’m a long way from 12 years old so I can’t judge how well this would play with a hypothetical younger audience. It’s trying to be more slangy and modern than the Harry Potter books, with a diverse young cast of characters, but the dialogue doesn’t always ring true and few of the characters are ever really developed all that much.

So think of it as a mashup between the kids’ books about kids with problems (dealing with dead parents, racism, social exclusion, bullying, etc) with a Lovecraftian novel. (And not just Lovecraft, there’s some Twilight Zone in there, too.) The tone’s too light and the challenge too easily defeated to be truly Lovecraftian (not a spoiler — check the title). On the kids’ books side, it seems to be ticking boxes at times. The prose is functional, much more to the breezy end of the breezy/purple prose spectrum. And yet the story moves, and I can visualize it actually working as a fun movie aimed at kids, if we lived in a world where kids were familiar with the mythos.

It’s a fun read for anyone who likes to see how H.P. Lovecraft’s influence can be twisted into unexpected new shapes, and much more enjoyable than I expected.

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