I first came across the writings of C.T. Phipps while reading his Rules of Supervillainy series. I thoroughly enjoyed those books, so when I heard that C.T. was coming out with an almost Cthulhu Western that takes place after the world has been overrun by every work of Mr. Lovecraft’s, I had to read it.
Great fiction makes readers feel what their characters are going through. When an author can reach into a reader’s heart and pull at the same strings that his or her characters are going through, an author has done their job and done it well.
I was fortunate enough to be advanced a copy of this book prior to publication. And I mean fortunate. This book is destined to generate strong sales, firstly on the strength of the names involved (Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell), and then on the strength of the poem and stories included. Stephanie M. Wytovich leads off with an effective piece of verse, which leads into what I think is the best story in the book: Brian Kirk’s “Picking Splinters From a Sex Slave.” That story illustrates what lengths a person might go to to accomodate a loved one, in exquisite detail. The actual tableau is revolting, but the internal logic is inescapable. The tone is perfect. “Splinters” is followed by Lisa Mannetti and then Neil Gaiman. Both stories are good — not pedestrian, but are overshadowed by the excellence of Kirk’s piece. Christopher Cooke’s “Dominion” levels up one from those and leads into a tetralogy of really effective horror tales by Mercedes M. Yardley, Paul Tremblay, Damien Angelica Walters, and Richard Thomas, before Clive Barker takes center stage with his “Coming To Grief”. I’m not going to say that this story is as good as “classic Barker” pieces like “In the Hills, the Cities”, but it is a Barker story, and has a certain resonance. The second-best story, John F.D. Taff’s “Cards for His Spokes, Coins for His Fare”, which has distinct Kingian undertones, is set in the early 70s of my own childhood and morphs into a fairly classic ghost yarn. Cheers for the setting and characters. Amanda Gowin contributes a decent piece, “Cellar’s Dog”, with a good portrait of po’ white trash, and Kevin Lucia adds “When We All Met at the Ofrenda”, which again hits me especially, as I live in the Southwest and am familiar with the lore that contributes to the setting and setup. That’s followed by good pieces from Maria Alexander and Josh Malerman, before the capstone, Ramsey Campbell’s “The Place of Revelation”, which does not disappoint. Strong, strong, strong. Pieces that find beauty in grotesquerie, love amid the ruins, that entice you with beauty and magic and then hang you on a meathook, still wanting more. Gutted will have out your liver and lights in an instant, after you give your heart willingly. An easy five stars.
Lovecraftian anthologies tend to be uneven, especially earlier ones, where the stable of writers was fuller. This is a later and smoother version, albeit with the work of some older and/or completely unexpected scribes. The level of craftsmanship is very high, and everyone clearly knows the material, which is another common issue. I enjoyed it. Caitlin Kiernan’s story was the best, I thought (and think).
Terrance Blake is the best man in his world and would be a good man in most worlds. Rudolf is a mutant villain without a shred of decency, but still disciplined and purposeful. They are on a collision course, and don’t know it. Jane and Marlon Teagarden are only the twin rails that the story rolls along on, and only one of them is Riding the Centipede. I get the sense that a lot of the actual journey was cut. The scenes of experience don’t seem as protracted as they might be. And that may be for the best. The setting and denouement are determinedly Burroughsian, though there’s not as much of the old up and out and more of the Burgessian ultraviolence as Chernobyl performs his version of art. Though Jane Teagarden could use a little more fleshing-out of character, that would probably detract from the hold-your-breath movement of the narrative, which comes to an explosive climax. Background-5;plotting-5;characters-4;style-5. Round up to 5. Highly recommended.
Smooth, polished, professional. Disturbing, subtle, and definitely nightmarish. The stories in this volume are not so Lovecraftian as the title would have you believe. There is a dollop of cosmic horror, but none of the usual suspects are present. No hooded cultists, octopus-headed monstrosities, cyclopean ruins, non-Euclidean space. Headspace is more the issue. The Lovecraftian “mind”, indeed. Some of the matter-of-factness of JG Ballard, the inventive weirdness of David Lynch, the slightest hint of Philip Dickian mindrape, a tinge of the existential, a small infusion of the Gnostic. The reading of strange texts informs the text. Mr. Krall has been turning some strange pages indeed, and he melds all of those disparate elements into a surreal collage all his own. These are pictures of minds after “experiences”, continuing to try to function in mundane space, and largely failing. Recommended reading.
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A little over a week ago, I received quite the interesting package from the out past the South Pacific. Inside was an effigy of terrifying grace that exuded beautiful madness. If ever before I had doubted the depths a sane man can fall, those doubts were forever smothered by the arrival of my custom handmade Cthulhu Dice Bag by Wayward Masquerade. Continue reading »
With so many Mythos related tales out there, I’m usually incredibly picky about the stories I read. I always prefer the mythos full length novels. So, when I saw Amazon recommending Carter & Lovecraft to me, I decided to give it a chance. Continue reading »