Book Review: Lovecraft’s Monsters edited by Ellen Datlow

Lovecrafts Monsters Anthology Book Cover
 

Lovecraft’s Monsters
Edited by Ellen Datlow
Tachyon Publishing
April 2014
432 pages

Review copy purchased online

This deliciously creepy and loving tribute to the master of modern horror features riveting illustrated stories of his wicked progeny.

In the century since the master of horror, H. P. Lovecraft, published his first story, the monstrosities that crawled out of his brain have become legend: the massive, tentacled Cthulhu, who lurks beneath the sea waiting for his moment to rise; the demon Sultan Azathoth, who lies babbling at the center of the universe, mad beyond imagining; the Deep Ones, who come to shore to breed with mortal men; and the unspeakably-evil Hastur, whose very name brings death. These creatures have been the nightmarish fuel for generations of horror writers, and the inspiration for some of their greatest works.

This impressive anthology celebrates Lovecraft’s most famous beasts in all their grotesque glory, with each story a gripping new take on a classic mythos creature and affectionately accompanied by an illuminating illustration. Within these accursed pages something unnatural slouches from the sea into an all-night diner to meet the foolish young woman waiting for him, while the Hounds of Tindalos struggle to survive trapped in human bodies, haunting pool halls for men they can lure into the dark. Strange, haunting, and undeniably monstrous, this is Lovecraft as you have never seen him before.

Contents

“Only the End of the World Again” by Neil Gaiman
“The Bleeding Shadow” by Joe R. Lansdale
“Love is Forbidden, We Croak & Howl” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
“Bulldozer” by Laird Barron
“A Quarter to Three” by Kim Newman
“Inelastic Collisions” by Elizabeth Bear
“That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable” by Nick Mamatas
“Red Goat Black Goat” by Nadia Bulkin
“Jar of Salts” and “Haruspicy” by Gemma Files
“Black is the Pit From Pole to Pole” by Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley
“I’ve Come to Speak with You Again” by Karl Edward Wagner
“The Sect of the Idiot” by Thomas Ligotti
“The Dappled Things” by William Browning Spencer
“The Same Deep Waters as You” by Brian Hodge
“Remnants” by Fred Chappell
“Waiting at the Cross Roads” by Steve Rasnic Tem
“Children of the Fang” by John Langan

Review: Ellen Datlow writes in the introduction of this, one of her most excellent anthologies to date (although to be fair, there is no such thing in my mind as an Ellen Datlow anthology that isn’t in some way excellent, so there you go), she states that she tried to put together an anthology that isn’t just full of the “usual suspects” and doesn’t have the same reprints or other stories that people will have seen before numerous times. And boy does she ever succeed.

Neil Gaiman starts thing off with a fantastic tale about a werewolf set in the Lovecraft-y setting of Innsmouth, England. The landlady writes this fellow notes about the Elder Gods. Another character has a tarot deck, the Deep Ones are mentioned, and I learned that an eidolon is a manifestation of the Deep Ones, which I’d always wondered about. In any case, this was a superb choice for the story selected to kick off the anthology, and I was very much entertained.

Next up is a piece called “Bulldozer” by cosmic horror master Laird Barron. This was a fascinating departure for me in terms of tone for him–much grittier, and a more action-packed story that had elements of a Weird Western vibe. There’s a vivid sense of immediacy to the prose, so much so that it made me feel as though I were seeing a Laird Barron story adapted by Quentin Tarantino on the screen. It definitely packs a Lovecraftian wallop and is by far one of the best stories of the entire anthology.

Other standouts for me included “Inelastic Collisions” by Elizabeth Bear, two poems by Gemma Files, whose work I absolutely adore, “Red Goat Black Goat” by Nadia Bulkin, “The Sect of the Idiot” by Thomas Ligotti, and by far, though, my absolute rant-ravingly good Oh my Goodness I cannot *believe* how amazing this story was!” tale was from none other than living legend Joe R. Lansdale. His story, “The Bleeding Shadow,” is one I cannot emphasize enough how amazing it is. I also felt this way when I read Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs in terms of subject matter but also the vibe it made me feel as I was reading. Mr. Lansdale’s story starts off interestingly enough with a woman who comes to a bar needing help from one of her former clients that she still has a soft spot for. I put in my notes that I *wish* I could write dialogue as authentically and effectively as Mr. Lansdale does. One day, perhaps with enough practice, I just might. Anyway, getting back to his story, the woman’s blues musician brother has sent her a record that produces some bizarre happenings when it is played. That’s the best way I can put it without spoiling anything. The story gets more and more interesting with each page and each new discovery until we hit a high crescendo for the impactful ending, and the story left me wanting more. This story is phenomenal and I’m sorry if I’m unaware and it did win awards when it came out, but if it didn’t, Mr. Lansdale deserves multiple awards for it in my book.

The other thing I found very helpful and interesting about this anthology was the appendix at the end that describes all of Lovecraft’s most prominent creatures, like The Deep Ones, Azathoth, The Elder Things, Ghouls, and much more. Overall, this anthology is a unique offering among the other Lovecraftian horror tomes available out there, and includes some of the most stellar horror storytelling put together in one volume. Definitely put this on your must-read list.