Letters to Lovecraft : Eighteen Whispers to the Darkness by Jesse Bullington (editor)

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Letters to Lovecraft : Eighteen Whispers to the Darkness by Jesse Bullington (editor)

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Category: Horror
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: There are a few flaws in this collection, but the snappy approach of many authors and the rampant variety make this a worthwhile purchase.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: December 2014
Publisher: Stoneskin Press
ISBN: 9781908983107

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Howard Phillips Lovecraft was, to me, the author of ruinously mediocre post-Victorian penny dreadful horror fiction, concerning far too numerous many-tentacled, secretly-worshipped, extra-dimensional monster threats to mankind for his – and our – own good. It's little wonder that he lived and died in poverty, and only became of note posthumously. That note seems to be building, however, hence this collection of stories by many award-winning modern writers of the dark and macabre, all looking back yet going much further, and pretty much all providing us with a showcase for their own, contemporary talent.

The collection seems superlatively edited, so much so that at first each tale seems to have sprung from something in the one preceding. We begin with a look at how common-or-garden 'off' moments – such as getting lost, the car radio tuning itself and promising you it's presenting a station channel when all you hear is static – that only really seem sinister when they multiply. Radio static is mentioned, albeit briefly, in the second work, where three dead-end-town teens fake a found footage video of the local spooky legend, only to find out the dread consequences. Escaping a dead-end-town is mentioned, albeit briefly – you see the pattern – in the third, where a man has an unusual relationship with an unnamed woman. An unnamed woman then has an unusual relationship with something unnameable, as she battles to leave her dead end life – and the real focus of story two returns to us again. The accumulative effect of such diverse stories is only to remind us of how close they are to what we know, how we feel – to bring the horror of our reality to our reality and make it work even more effectively.

Added to the success of the book is its structure – each story is preceded by the author picking a quote from Lovecraft's thoughts on his own genre of fiction set out in an essay the editor provided to all the contributors, and their own introduction as to how and why their work is a response. So people can pick the very same phrases, and come up, of course, with incredibly different stories. This makes both this book, and even Lovecraft himself, more appealing.

That's not to say that all here works – there are werewolf tales that are just meh; an encounter a fisherman has raises a titter more than a goosebump, and the introduction of Lovecraft himself doesn't really get him or us anywhere. Still, when the authors showcase their sheer variety – something Lovecraft himself never seemed to have, for me – and their invention (ditto), even when looking at lost children and forgotten family secrets, or the perniciousness of racism, we can only look on appreciatively. We go from the homespun to the weird when we sail the ancient oceans and encounter base human needs, while my favourite I think was the other needs of mankind met (or not) in St Paul's Cathedral, London.

So here we have a very good collection, bar a few poor efforts, on the whole solidly edited by someone I find a very solid author. I haven't named any of the contributors here, for many reasons – one is that I honestly haven't heard of any of them, such a remove I have from modern horror writing. Another is that they work so well together – while, of course, being ultimately different – and this community of respondents to Lovecraft should be taken as one entity. It's a multi-tentacled monster, however, that I would actually not mind worshipping a little.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Another recent anthology that really worked for me in this genre was Dead Funny by Robin Ince and Johnny Mains (editors).

Buy Letters to Lovecraft : Eighteen Whispers to the Darkness by Jesse Bullington (editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Letters to Lovecraft : Eighteen Whispers to the Darkness by Jesse Bullington (editor) at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Letters to Lovecraft : Eighteen Whispers to the Darkness by Jesse Bullington (editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Letters to Lovecraft : Eighteen Whispers to the Darkness by Jesse Bullington (editor) at Amazon.com.

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