Short Stories Challenge 2018 – At The Mountain Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

Published March 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s At The Mountain Of Madness all about?:

The Mountain Of Madness follows our male character as he embarks upon an expedition to the Antarctic, initially in search of fossils but ends up finding something much more unexpected and incredibly dangerous.

What did I think?:

Sigh. I think I’ll always be grateful to this short story as it’s only when I dragged myself through this (almost literally kicking and screaming at some points) that I realised that Lovecraft and I are not a match made in heaven. I’ve been worrying about our compatibility for some time now after I’ve read a number of stories in this collection but have always persevered, thinking perhaps there’s something about him I’m just not getting. To be fair to him, there has been the occasional story where I’ve thought: “That was alright, sort of enjoyable,” but generally, I’m finding reading some of his work the most mammoth task. This was definitely the case with The Mountain Of Madness. For starters, it was just so incredibly LONG and, full disclosure here, I found myself skimming whole parts of the narrative just to get to the end that little bit quicker.

Funny story – when I was reading it (and heartily complaining to my boyfriend all the way through), I had been quiet for a little while and he took one look at my face and then told me to give up the story, it looked like it was causing me physical pain! Well, by that time I was so close to the end that I thought I might as well finish it. Now I’m thinking that it’s a shame I’m never going to get that time back again, which was an HOUR by the way and that was with skimming as well. God knows how long it would have taken me if I had bothered to read every word diligently!

So, as a quick explanation of this story, it started out promisingly enough with a group of men, all with different skills i.e. biologist, physicist, geologist who embark on a once in a lifetime trip to the Antarctic to try and get a better idea of the area’s history, primarily by sampling some of the rock formations, which is where our main guy comes in as a geologist. It is not long however, before the men find something else entirely, something terrifying, hideous, other-worldly (hey, what else did you expect, it’s Lovecraft right?) and puts them all in very grave danger.

Where do I even begin? I always like to try and find some positives and if you’re a die hard Lovecraftian, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, he’s definitely adept with his vocabulary, long descriptive sequences where nothing much happens at all and the build up, cooling down and further build up of a scene. This however, is becoming exactly my problem with him. I can deal with the beautiful wording, although at time it does get a bit too much and some of the creatures he creates are incredibly imaginative however it just all feels like more of the same old thing and to be honest, I’m getting bored.

I do understand that most of his stories have connections to the wider world of the Cthulhu Mythos and the book of Necronomicon of course, but just for once I’d like to read a story that doesn’t feel like it’s going in the exact same direction as the last. For example, male character goes searching for alien/ancient beings, male character finds strange city that makes him feel a bit weird, male character finds evidence that creatures are highly intelligent, male character sees creature and is terrified, male character (or friend of male character) has nervous breakdown and fears no-one is ever going to believe him. You see what I mean? It’s getting a bit tedious and although I can see why people rate Lovecraft so much as an author, I fear I’m not going to change my mind about him. This is now the eleventh story I’ve read in this collection and with fifty-six left to go, I’m sad to say I’m going to have to remove this collection from my Short Stories Challenge from here on in. I’ve really tried to give him a chance and I just can’t do it anymore!

I’d love to hear your opinions on Lovecraft if you’ve read him. Do you feel the same as me? Or is there something I’m clearly missing?

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Four Hundred Rabbits by Simon Levack from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Vol 7.

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4 comments on “Short Stories Challenge 2018 – At The Mountain Of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft.

  • Totally agree! I’m glad I’ve read some Lovecraft because he’s been such an influence on the genre, but the hours and hours I spent wandering round those tedious ancient alien cities drove me insane. Not to mention all those fungoid aliens! My favourite Lovecraft description is “the bloated, fungoid moon” – just about sums up his style. 😉 Swap him out and swap in Arthur Machen – similar feel, but shorter, to the point, well told, and with some welcome humour! (However if your collection has The Cats of Ulthar or Polaris in it, they’re both pretty good – and short!)

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