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Review: The Gods of Lovecraft November 25, 2015

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews, Lovecraft.
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(Review based on free advance copy from the publisher in exchange for a review.)

I first heard about Lovecraft in 1975, thanks to a discussion of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath in Lin Carter’s book Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings. I read more about him in the
introductions to various Robert E. Howard collections two or three
years later. I picked up the October 1979 special Lovecraft issue of Heavy Metal, and in December of 1979 I picked up my first Lovecraft book (The Doom That Came to Sarnath and Other Stories) and my first collection of Lovecraft-inspired mythos tales (Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos Volume Two).

So, I’ve been reading Lovecraft-influenced (or Cthulhu mythos, if you prefer) fiction for a long time. I have a bookcase full of Lovecraft and mythos material, and a significant amount on my ereaders as well. I can safely say a fair number of mythos anthologies are amateurish, uninspired exercises in nostalgia. This age of self-publishing, micropresses, and ebooks has generated more of these than ever. Fortunately, The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft, edited by Aaron J. French, is not one of them.

For a start, there are some good and well-regarded writers here,
including Martha Wells, Seanan McGuire, Joe Lansdale, and others.
There’s also a concept that shapes the book without limiting it: each story focuses on a particular entity or group from Lovecraft’s fiction and is followed by a few pages of lore on that entity or group, as if excerpted from the Necronomicon or some other dusty tome of forbidden knowledge. These bits of commentary are written with the occasional touch of macabre humour by Donald Tyson, who’s written a version of the Necronomicon, a biography of its alleged author, Abdul Alhazred, and other mythos works. Each story also gets an illustration, which explains the ebook’s large file size.

Adam LG Nevill starts the book with a story that I found a little
oddly written at first. It snapped into focus for me when it occurred to me that it read very much like a mythos tale as written by JG Ballard, in the style of his stories about damaged people in unexplained postapocalyptic settings. I don’t know if he was going for that, but it works.

A few of the other stories read as though they might be adventures of characters and settings the authors have used elsewhere. The stories aren’t all set in the word as we know it; there are hints of steampunk or alternate worlds or fantasy here and there. More importantly, though, the authors all seem to want to avoid the cliches of mythos fiction, and by and large they succeed. There’s a lot of fresh takes on Lovecraft’s gods and monsters.

Overall, this was a good, entertaining anthology, one I’m glad I gave a chance.

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