Years ago when I read Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, I was amazed at how original his horror stories were. They were new and unique, with takes on the horror genre I had not seen before. It was not until I read Lois Gresh’s Cult of the Dead did I feel the same way about an anthology of horror stories.
Cult of the Dead is a collection of 20 “weird and Lovecraftian tales” by veteran horror author Lois H. Gresh. The stories are self-contained, having been published over the course of the author’s career and collected into this work. Each story is excellently written and transports the reader into the world Gresh creates. Her writing style is as unique as her stories, which takes a little bit to get used to, but works well with the tales she unfolds for the reader.
However, stating that the book is a collection of “weird and Lovecraftian tales” is a stretch in this author’s opinion. Only about a third of the short stories are ones that I would consider Lovecraftian, or connected to the Cthulhu mythos or cosmic horror; another third are “weird horror” tales, best related to some of the works of Clark Ashton Smith; and the rest I would honestly categorize as horror erotica, many of which seem to deal with plants.
Like all of the stories in the book, the Lovecraftian tales are original and amazingly written. My favorite was “Necrotic Cove”, which describes the journey of a dying woman and her friend to a jungle cove with reported healing powers. Gresh describes the thoughts of the protagonist expertly, and the reader is quickly sucked into the story and feels what the character is going through, even as events turn horrific. Again, it reminds me of the way Barker’s stories in the Books of Blood anthology are described to the reader, which works in a similar fashion.
Overall, this is an excellent collection of horror short stories. If you do not care how the horror is delivered to you, then I would highly recommend picking up this collection as its originality and descriptions will surely delight you. However, if you are looking for a collection of only Lovecraftian or cosmic horror stories, then this isn’t for you; I just did not feel the number of stories in the book that I would consider Lovecraftian would warrant its purchase upon that criteria alone.
3.5 / 5 Stars