This anthology proceeds from the premise of Lovecraftian horror taking place in smalltown America and goes on from there. Lovecraft himself set many of his tales in that kind of environment, so it’s a viable concept.
It is mostly successful-stories from experienced hands Nick Mamatas, Mary SanGiovanni and Gary Braunbeck are particularly effective.
A couple of the pieces don’t fare as well. One of the stories conflates Nyarlathotep with Cthulhu, using the famous invented-language couplet from The Call of Cthulhu to invoke the Crawling Chaos. No matter what you think of canon, Nyarlathotep doesn’t sleep in R’lyeh, except perhaps on vacation.
Mamatas’ story takes place in a Greek diner and has quasipolitical undertones. SanGiovanni’s story evokes Bradbury, famously a disciple of Lovecraft and certainly suitable for this collection. Braunbeck’s story is the most successfully Lovecraftian, without descending to the level of pastiche. Other stories are of varying effectiveness-most are quietly competent.
The artwork, both on the cover and within, is excellent. John Coulthart in particular has nice work in these pages.
The book was an absorbing read. I went through it cover-to-cover in one night, stopping only to cleanse my metaphysical palate after reading the Kevin Lucia entry, which I did not enjoy.
I’d give it three and a half stars, which I’ll round up to four. It’s better than the run of the mill, but still a trifle uneven. On the plus side, there were only two typos-the only editorial miscue that I could find. Good work, ladies and gentlemen. I’d recommend this volume on the strength of the better stories.
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