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Review: Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by Jonathan L. Howard October 22, 2015

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews, Lovecraft.
The Fear Institute cover

The Fear Institute by Jonathan L. Howard

So, I liked Carter and Lovecraft a lot, and learned that Howard wrote another Lovecrafty novel, so I bought the ebook. You wouldn’t necessarily expect two Lovecraftian novels by the same author to be damn near polar opposites in pretty much every respect (except quality), but that’s the case.

I haven’t read any of the Johannes Cabal books before now. This is the third one. Where Howard captures a hard-edged, noir, American style for Carter and Lovecraft, here he uses a very different style, dry, witty, and cruel, like Cabal himself. There is a lot of humour in the book, frequently very dark humour at the expense of supporting characters, who don’t appear to have any reasonable expectation of a long life or a peaceful, painless death.

I really enjoyed the style. For example: “For the first time, he truly understood what Nietzsche had meant when he had yammered about looking into abysses. Not only had the abyss looked into him, it had noted his name, address and shoe size.”

As for the story: the sinister necromancer is approached by a trio who represent the Fear Institute, a group who intend to improve the world by eliminating the emotion of fear. And (here’s where Lovecraft comes in) they’ve determined that the source of fear is in the Dreamlands, another world that can be reached through dreams or physical visits, as portrayed in stories like “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.”

The book becomes a quest through the Dreamlands for the Phobic Animus. Some things are not as they seem. The rules of the Dreamlands take some figuring out, too. And the somewhat protracted ending goes through a few steps with some interesting revelations and a setup for the next volume.

Howard’s style and tone are as right for a Dreamlands adventure here as they are in Carter and Lovecraft for a very different type of tale. Both are definitely recommended for fans of fresh takes on Lovecraftian fiction, but they should both work quite well for relative newcomers to HPL, too.



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