Sunday, December 8, 2013

That Which Should Not Be

by Brett J. Talley

Brett J. Talley offers up a buffet of Lovecraft-inspired tales in a novel full of stories that are contained in one overarching narrative. the structure often reminded me of old omnibus films from Amicus Productions like Torture Garden and of course that great classic Dead of Night from Ealing Studios. I appreciated the reminder.

the main tale concerns a student of Miskatonic University sent to find an ancient tome in a remote village. the story itself is quite involving and leads to a fun climax set in R'lyeh (a place we should all visit at some point for its architectural attractions alone). but that is really only a part of the novel: while at the village, the student is almost immediately regaled with three supernatural adventures; soon after, he is told another story, and even later he reads an ill-fated ship captain's journal.

for me, familiarity does not breed contempt, so I have no issue with familiar scenarios. I had different feelings about each of the stories. the retread of Algernon Blackwoods' awesome The Wendigo felt unnecessary and did nothing to improve the original; still, even though I thought it was the weakest, it was definitely enjoyable. my favorites were the story set in an insane asylum and especially the captain's journal - the former was quite intriguing and atmospheric, the latter used a nicely unsettling narrator (and I felt it could have gone on even longer than it did, which is always a good sign for me). one of the things I particularly liked was the slight interconnectedness of those stories - I could have used more of that. overall the novel felt like a love letter to the classic writers of Weird Fiction and also a somewhat cocky introduction to the author's skill at writing in that classic vein. I have no problem with cockiness and appreciate it when an author is confident of his abilities.

this was the second novel in a row I've read that linked the Cthulhu mythos to Christian mythology. wait, should I have said "mythology" when talking about Christianity? please, trolls, stay away. anyway, I think that link is really fascinating and I'm surprised it never occurred to me before. I particularly enjoyed the connection to Gog and Magog. those two are always trouble.

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