on 21 August 2013
H. P. Lovecraft and space opera would seem an odd mix, and it is, as Lovecraft wrote little in the way of extraterrestrial science fiction. There's "In the Walls of Eryx", and that's about it. So, when this book starts off with an introduction by Larry Correia and HE promptly starts off his introduction with the statement "Lovecraft's works were all about looking outward. . ." my eyebrows went up. This is because no, no they weren't. Stories like 'At The Mountains Of Madness', 'The Music Of Eric Zann', 'The Statement Of Randolph Carter', 'Pickman's Model', etc., etc., were hardly outward, i.e., space (as is the theme of this anthology) oriented. Lovecraft's stories are all very much earthbound stories.
********And then came the first story, and I began to see fourteen dollars with wings flying away into the sunset. 'Arise Thou Niarlat From Thy Rest' by D. J. Butler is a herky-jerkily told story that skips from one scenario to three or four others, I forget and I don't care. The first is a pseudo-CASish tale about a never-neverland with lots of unpronounceable names and exotically rendered religions that will then jump to a thirties era pair of adventurers, then a spaceship, and then these start interacting, and ping-ponging back and forth to all of these to the point of incomprehensibility and apathy on the readers point. Then there are glaring lapses in storytelling logic; such as one character empting his Tommy Gun at some rampaging cultists, then shooting at them, and empting his gun TWO more times. To be generous, this reads like a five-hundred page novel abridged into a thirty-two page piece of rubbish that insults the name of Lovecraft. However, I'm not in a generous mood. Zero stars.
********The next story was 'Space Opera' by Michael R. Collins and it gave me hope that maybe there would be hope after all for this anthology. Collins is veteran writer of horror and science fiction, and in his story he explores a completely alien spacebound civilization. Torq is the captain on a belligerent alien seedship intent on seeding alien worlds when they come across a new world with its own advanced civilization. Torq is given orders to communicate with, and lay down an ultimatum to surrender and be conquered. Of course they agree, but there's a catch, this planet worships and is under the protection of a much more elder and powerful god, and this alien hive is in for a surprise, as this God is now aroused, and it is not pleased.
********It's true, according to Nathan Shumate in his story 'The Menace Under Mars', a mash up of Lovecraft's 'At The Mountains Of Madness' and a late forties, early fifties "Planet Stories" Mars romp that there was once life on Mars. Since 1953 the only thing to be found of on the red planet by scientists is sand and ice. Now it looks like Caldwell has actually gone and done it, he's found evidence of ancient Martians. This is another case of some scientists being in the wrong place at the wrong time on the wrong planet. They are terraforming Mars when the water that they are melting from Mars' polar caps wakes something, or somethings, of hostile intent. After a pair of scientists disappear at an artifact find, and their base goes suddenly quiet, a rescue team is suddenly caught between the hammer and the anvil as they try to survive while something alien starts picking them off one at a time. Four stars.
********On the other hand I was less than thrilled by David J. West's 'Gods In Darkness' which tries to marry the shallow, stupid, and misogynistic sixties tough guy story with space opera and Lovecraft. Captain Cormac "Jack-Hammer" Ross and Major James Driscoll are ferrying A. H. Ryman into orbit to the Lagrange point. Unfortunately, Ryman isn't just in space for a lark, he has a darker, hidden agenda in his attempt to take over a Soviet space station, and it won't fair well for Earth.
West tries to write a cold-war occult thriller, much like as if Dennis Wheatley were to write a science fiction thriller why channeling H. P. Lovecraft and Mickey Spillane, and it just doesn't work. Ross is a space faring assassin, murdering Soviet astronauts for America, and is proud of it. He's as cliché as he is a stupid, self-centered, intentionally ignorant murderer, a bore, a misogynist, a misanthrope, and he's unpleasant in all kinds of other forms of ways to spend any time with. As a character, Ross just makes reading this story hard work. If published during the sixties, 'Gods In Darkness' would have qualified as barely readable fan fiction. Three stars.
********The anthology however bounces back with the story 'The Shadows Of Titan' by Carter Reid and Brad R. Torgersen. Ripping a page out of the "This is very dumb idea" book, 3rd edition: revised, a four member crew of scientists have gone rogue and have landed on Titan to explore an alien pyramid. Now anybody with two brain cells, and an IQ of room temperature, will tell you that no good will come of this, so of course, no good comes of this. At all.
This is a story that is a combination of 'The Thing' and the movie "Alien", with nanites, and Cthulhu as a victim, and you might get the idea of what this little thriller is like. In the end, it will fall to one man to save the galaxy. A fun story, this is more of a pure science fiction story than a horror story, and is very much like Lovecraft as published in "Analog", which is Torgerson's regular market, and is a story that could have appeared in that venerated old pulp "Weird Astounding Stories". I think that Lovecraft would have like this one. Five stars.
Two divergent religious movements in the far future, after a Great Fall of mankind, in which science has become a form of religious cult, are now at war with each other. The Greeks (?) are stalking Russian spaceships and torturing and murdering their crews and passengers in their holy war. Russian war hero Spetzna will exact vengeance against the Greeks for their atrocities, even though he's recognizing that he is loosing control of his emotions. Meanwhile Greek high priest Icarus has been contacted by SOMETHING in the void and he's been changed, altered, and twisted into something no longer human, so that he's not Icarus anymore. And what this new Icarus wants will end up benefiting neither the Greeks nor the Russians. 'The Fury In The Void' by Robert J. Defendi is combination of Lovecraft and the Warhammer universe fiction as put into a blender with the old "Star Trek" episode 'Day Of The Dove'. So while this story may be a scathing attack on the abuse of religion by it believers in which all things, all atrocities, can be justified by a belief in their choice of God. Unfortunately, for me, this story was also just too long, even though, conversely, the ending seems just way too rushed, and which has a cast of characters that were generally unlikeable. Three stars
********Wendell Simonson has taken Jude's, his twin brother's berth on the interstellar ship "Voidheron" in an effort to escape Earth and an unhappy life. Wendell is a whiny, depressed, and guilt ridden character, and the jig will be up as Jude is a pilot, and the "Voidheron" is having a problem, and a pilot is needed, and guess what Wendell isn't?
Then there is another glitch. It seems that the "Voidheron" is infected, with, well, something. With 'Flight Of The Runewright' by Howard Taylor the anthology "Space Eldritch" ends on a high note. Four stars.
Still, despite the stories that I liked, The anthology "Space Eldritch" is a pretty hit and miss anthology. I really liked 'Space Opera', 'The Menace Under Mars', 'The Shadows Of Titan' and 'Flight Of The Runewright', even if the Lovecraftian influences often seem pretty tenious and tangential. These stories almost made making the slog through the keynote story by D. J. Butler almost forgivable. Almost.
This book has a good cover by Carter Reid which kinda, sorta illustrates his story, 'The Shadows Of Titan'. The thing that really grates me though is I hafta wonder who actually edited this anthology. No author is credited, although I suspect that Nathan Shumate edited this anthology, just as he has edited all the other books that are published by Cold Fusion Media, but if so, why not just put his name on his book?