H.P. Lovecraft

All posts tagged H.P. Lovecraft

Short Stories Challenge – The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Published November 20, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Haunter Of The Dark all about?:

The Haunter Of The Dark follows a male protagonist as he becomes obsessed with an old church which he can see from his own lodgings not far away. Of course, in typical Lovecraftian style, there is something evil within the church that leads our main character to a bit of a sticky ending.

What did I think?:

I think it’s fair to say that the Lovecraft stories I have read in this collection have been a bit hit and miss for me. Sometimes I can see the excellence in the writing, sometimes the stories are a bit eerie and give me a few shivers, then… there are other times that I find myself irritated by the over-flowery vocabulary and too many similarities between the stories. With The Haunter Of The Dark, I’m afraid I found myself of the latter opinion and didn’t really enjoy this tale too much.

The Haunter Of The Dark is famous for being the last-written of the author’s known works and is part of the Cthulhu Mythos (which I guess explains the similarities between other stories?). This is a shared fictional universe of Lovecraft’s where other authors have contributed work that can stand alone but may also fit into the development of the plot, characters or general world. I am in no way, shape or form an expert on this world from the few stories I have read that describe the creature Cthulhu or its genesis/development and must confess to feeling slightly confused over the whole thing – if any Lovecraft experts would like to explain, I’d be very grateful for some explanations!

As with many of Lovecraft’s stories, we focus on a male protagonist – Robert Blake, a writer and painter with an interest in the occult. He becomes intrigued and then rather consumed by an ancient church that he can see from his rooms in Providence, Rhode Island. Determined to investigate the old building, despite warnings from the superstitious locals he ends up releasing a primeval being and discovering the sinister history of the church, connected to a cult known as the Church Of Starry Wisdom. The being is kept constrained within the building by the lights of the town and can only work its mischief when there is complete darkness. So, of course the town undergoes a power cut during a thunderstorm, releasing the demon with severe consequences for our male lead.

Okay, so positive things about this story. The thought of an ancient (and evil) being that can only carry out its dastardly deeds under the cover of darkness is very creepy I grant you. It plays on on your old childhood fears of the dark, what might be under your bed or that panicky moment when the lights go out if you’re not expecting it. Apart from this, I have to admit I struggled with The Haunter Of The Dark. The story seemed so formulaic, there was nothing special or different about Robert as a character and, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have finished it if I didn’t have to write this review. We know it doesn’t end well when the beginning of the story opens with our main character’s death (which was probably the most exciting few sentences of the entire narrative). Hugely disappointing, I’m very much hoping that the next H.P. Lovecraft story I read will be a pleasant surprise!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

 

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge – Dreams In The Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Published March 14, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Dreams In The Witch-House all about?:

Dreams In The Witch-House is the story of a mathematics whizz who stays in an room rumoured to be haunted by an old witch and her frightening familiar and comes to somewhat of a sticky end himself as the Witches Sabbath approaches and her power over him grows.

What did I think?:

Let me put this out there straight away – this was NOT one of my favourite short stories by H.P. Lovecraft in this collection. Before I started my Short Stories Challenge, I hadn’t actually read anything by the author and from the tales I have read so far, I seem to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with his work. He is a bit of a force to be reckoned with and was a pioneer in the genre at the time he was writing but his stories so far have been a bit of a mixed bag for me.

Our main character is a scholar of mathematics called Walter Gilman and the story is set in the small superstitious town of Arkham, famed for its multitude of hidey holes where witches fled to escape their persecutors in the 17th century. The particular room in which Walter is staying was the prison of one of the more notorious and dangerous witches, Keziah Mason where, legend has it, there was no feasible explanation for her escape past her gaoler whom when questioned, turned into a gibbering wreck who mumbled that all he saw was a terrible, “white-fanged furry thing.”

Walter is studying mathematics and its link with local folklore – more specifically, those dimensions known and unknown to us and is investigating the link between these unknown realms and strange lines and curves that were painted by the witch Keziah just before her escape. They appear to point to an otherworldly place in time and space that can be visited but has incredibly dark undertones and is clearly the work of evil and malign forces. Local rumours in the town speak of the presence of human tooth marks in sleeping people, strange smells, violet lights, cries of children and of course, the furry white fanged being which is thought to be the witch’s familiar. It was thought to carry messages between the witch and the Devil and sustained itself by suckling on the witch’s blood. Stranger still, it even has a name – Brown Jenkin and has the appearance of a “good-sized rat” with startlingly human features.

As the Witches Sabbath on May Eve draws closer things dramatically worsen for Walter. What has started out as rather feverish dreams turns into sleep-walking and more terrifying dreams where the old crone Keziah and Brown Jenkin edge closer and closer to him. They are trying to get him to come with him somewhere beyond human comprehension and do unspeakable things and he seems to have no control over himself and his actions while he is dreaming. As a result, as the dreaded day approaches and once more, a child goes missing from the town (which the townspeople seem to be expecting), he cannot have had anything to do with it – can he?

So, this seems like quite an exciting premise for a story and I have to say the only reason I stuck with it was that I was intrigued as to how it was all going to turn out. However, it was SUCH a slog to get there! I’m not sure if it was all the mathematics that put me off – any mention of maths tends to go a bit over my head and make me shudder but it just read in a very over-complicated way that didn’t interest me at all. On a positive note, I did quite enjoy the ending where the tension seemed to go up a notch but for the effort it took to get there, I’m afraid it wasn’t worth it.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Enough Of This Shit Already by Tony Black from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – January to March

Published January 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://quotes.lifehack.org/quote/ali-smith/short-stories-consume-you-faster-theyre-connected/

Hooray for a new year and more short stories! This is what I’ll be reading for the first three months of 2016.

Week beginning 4th January 2016

Duet by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 11th January 2016

The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer by John Ajvide Lindqvist from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 18th January 2016

Dreams In The Witch-House by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 25th January 2016

Enough Of This Shit Already by Tony Black from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 1st February 2016

Stars Of Motown Shining Bright by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 8th February 2016

Charm For A Friend With A Lump by Helen Simpson from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 15th February 2016

Paranoid: A Chant by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Week beginning 22nd February 2016

Still Life by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 29th February 2016

Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 7th March 2016

How I Finally Lost My Heart by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives Of Women

Week beginning 14th March 2016

The Graveless Doll Of Eric Mutis by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 21st March 2016

The Adventure Of The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 28th March 2016

Choke Collar: Positron, Episode Two by Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Published October 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Whisperer In Darkness all about?:

The Whisperer In Darkness tells of some strange, other-worldly creatures that wreak havoc with the mental states of one male resident in Vermont and what appears to be his only ally.

What did I think?:

The premise of The Whisperer in Darkness is similar to previous stories I have read in this collection and although it had a few eerie moments and glimmers of promise, I wasn’t completely blown away. Furthermore, it felt quite long for a short story which started to make the process of reading it a bit too laborious and not as fun as I would have hoped. This particular story is set in Vermont and is narrated by university lecturer Albert Wilmarth who also has a passion for unusual superstitions and ancient folklore. After some unprecedented adverse weather in Vermont that year, floods swamp the area and stories keep surfacing of strange “things,” noticed in the flood waters. Arthur goes on to tell us that these creatures are hard to describe but have the appearance of something crab-like with a multitude of legs and huge bat-like wings on their backs (which unfortunately I found a bit funny rather than scary).

Albert is intrigued but very sceptical and contacts one of the current residents in the area, Henry Akeley to see if he can provide more information. Luckily (or unluckily) for our narrator, Henry is somewhat of the expert, telling him that the creatures are of another world (yes, that bit is kind of obvious!) and usually live in the hills, not usually bothering too much with humans as long as they are not encroaching on their territory. He sends Albert photographs of evidence he has collected to prove the creatures’ existence which consists of strange claw-like marks in the ground, an ancient stone with hieroglyphics and provides a sound recording of the creatures attempting to make human speech which is quite a good effort but with a background buzzing noise as they whisper to those walking in the forest. Okay, that’s kind of creepy I give you that Mr Lovecraft!

As Akeley and Wilbarton continue to communicate, the creatures don’t like it too much and their letters to each other “disappear.” Akeley is becoming increasingly paranoid that the beasts are out to get him and his dogs bark nightly for what seems like no reason yet in the morning, the strange claw marks are evident on his property. Wilbarton decides to go up and visit him in person to solve this mystery once and for all but what he experiences there can only be described as his worst ever nightmare with an ending and powerful final line that almost redeems the whole story.

So yes, there were eerie parts to the story but overall it didn’t thrill me too much. I don’t know if I’m getting bored of the same concept i.e. intelligent narrator visits small town which is dominated by alien-like beings. The only thing that really made we shiver were the buzzing narration as the creatures whispered to people walking through the forest. I read a post recently on Fiction Fan’s blog about the author’s over-blown use of adjectives and it really made me chuckle. In this story we have another classic example that I’m sure she will appreciate:

“Where Akeley had given only outlines before, he now entered into minute details, presenting long transcripts of words overheard in the woods at night, long accounts of monstrous pinkish forms spied in thickets at twilight on the hills, and a terrible cosmic narrative derived from the application of profound and varied scholarship to the endless bygone discourses of the mad self-styled spy who had killed himself.”

Phew! I don’t know about you but I’m worn out just reading that! So yes, not the best short story in this collection so far but here’s hoping I get a good one next time round.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Rat In The Attic by Brian McGilloway from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

 

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – July to September

Published July 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months of short stories! This little lot should see me through into the autumn.

Week beginning 6th July

Small Degrees by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 13th July

Airshow by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 20th July

The Menace by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 27th July

Candia by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 3rd August

Medicine by Michel Faber from the collection The

Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 10th August

Necessary Women by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 17th August

The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 24th August

Tell Me I’ll See You Again by Dennis Etchison from the collection A Book of Horrors

Week beginning 31st August

The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 7th September

The Rat In The Attic by Brian McGilloway from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

Week beginning 14th September

Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 21st September

The Cat That Walked By Himself by Rudyard Kipling from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 28th September

The Wedding Gig by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Short Stories Challenge – The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Published June 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Dunwich Horror all about?:

The Dunwich Horror is the story of the strange Whatley family who practise black magic in their local village of Dunwich. The hero, Dr Armitage finds out exactly what being they have conjured with a means of eliminating it and saving human-kind.

What did I think?:

With every Lovecraftian tale I read, I get more and more used to his style of writing, especially his elongated vocabulary – even if I have to read some paragraphs more than once to make any sense of them! The Dunwich Horror is one of the longer stories in this collection and at times it felt it was going on a bit too long for my liking, but more about that later. The story begins with giving a lot of background information about the village of Dunwich and in particular, the Whatley family who have always been looked on as a bit odd. There is the old man Whatley (often referred to as Wizard Whatley due to his love of practising black magic) and his daughter Lavinia, described as albino, deformed and quite unattractive. They live in a house up on a hill with a portion of it that is completely closed off, much to the curiosity of the villagers. Then the villagers are surprised to discover that Lavinia has had a son which she has named Wilbur. No-one knows who or where the father is but this is not the strangest thing about the boy. He begins to walk and talk unnaturally early and keeps growing taller and taller, having the appearance of a man by about ten years old. Something in his features gives the villagers the shivers, it is described as “goatish or animalistic,” and soon he is feared more than his grandfather and mother.

The villagers also notice that old Whatley appears to be re-arranging his house and seeking the help of Wilbur with his spells. The two would stand on the hill by their house around a mound of stones that some say were an ancient Indian burial ground and would chant for hours on end. There is also a noticeable foul stench in the area that appears to be coming from somewhere within the house yet is so strong that it affects the surrounding areas. One day old Whatley becomes very ill and Wilbur is sent in haste for Dr Armitage, the local physician. Old Whatley is not afraid however, he hears the whippoorwills gathering and their chirps seem to mimic the old man’s last breaths. He tells his grandson that they are here for his soul and if they succeed they will screech until the morning but if they fail they will instantly fall silent. Before his last breath, Dr Armitage witnesses the old man involved in some handing over procedure with his grandson but he cannot make out all the words. Something about “feeding it, giving it more space, opening up the gates,” but he concludes that the old man is out of his senses.

Unfortunately this is not the case. Wilbur (who is over seven feet tall now and takes a rather…interesting (?) form), Dr Armitage and the entire village fall prey to an other-wordly creature that cannot be described fully here but leaves destruction in its wake, reducing houses to mere eggshells with no clue as to where the human inhabitants have gone – not even skeletons are left behind. Dr Armitage must now rally the village and attempt to force this dastardly beast back to where it came from as after much study, he learns that if he fails in this mission, human-kind is doomed.

So, I started this story with a bit of disappointment to be honest. Oh dear, ANOTHER other-wordly creature from Lovecraft? The background information that we are given about the village and the Whatley family is quite in-depth but I quite enjoyed this part of the story. It was when we came down to the “action” part and the hunting down of the creature that, to be honest, I became slightly bored as it felt unnecessarily drawn out. I often found myself floating into a little daydream at this point thinking about how I was going to rip the story to shreds in this post, losing my focus more than once! However, it did end in a nice little conclusion with a quick summary of what had just happened (for anyone who had nodded off…ahem!) and we get a creepy little ending that I have to say did give me a shiver. On the strength of the ending and the strong beginning I’ve raised the story’s rating but it’s not my favourite in this collection.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Bloodsport by Tom Cain from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7