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on 22 October 2014
This is a good edition of some of Lovecraft's finest works, although the texts are not definitive (the paragraphing for AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is all wrong, not at all as Lovecraft wrote the story). What I want to comment on, briefly, is the unfortunate Introduction by M. J. Elliott, which overflows with errors and misinformation. I confess that I was amused by this: "...it is reported that when veteran B-movie actor George Zucco was admitted to an asylum in 1960, he claimed that the Great God Cthulhu was stalking him." I've never heard this, and I rather doubt that it is true--but I am open to be surprised. On the first page of the Introduction we find, "...he rarely ventured outside his beloved Providence and never left America." This is entirely untrue. Lovecraft ALWAYS ventured outside Providence when he had the money to do so, journeying to many cities. His travel essay, "A Description of the Town of Quebec in New-France, Lately added to His Britannick Majesty's Dominions" is a record of his thorough and prolonged investigation of that city, which does indeed exist outside America. Indeed, H. P. Lovecraft was so well-traveled that there is an entire book of 288 pages of his travel writings published in the COLLECTED ESSAYS set by Hippocampus Press. The editor seems ignorant of the origin of "The Hound," stating that it was obviously inspired by Sherlock Holmes and his encounter with the Baskervilles. This is entirely wrong, for the story was inspired by H. P. Lovecraft's investigation of Dutch Reformed Church (1796) on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. As Lovecraft wrote to his aunt Lillian D. Clark on 29 September 1922:
"From one of the crumbling gravestones--dated 1747--I chipped a small piece to carry away. It lies before me as I write--& ought to suggest some sort of a horror-story. I must some night place it beneath my pillow as I sleep...who can say what THING might not come out of the centuried earth to exact vengeance for his desecrated tomb?"
This was the inspiration that led Lovecraft to write "The Hound."
Other portions of the Introduction are quite good, however, and their author seems to be a genuine admirer of Lovecraft's fiction. The stories in this book are:
Dagon,
The Nameless City
The Hound
The Festival
The Call of Cthulhu
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Dunwich Horror
The Whisperer in Darkness
At the Mountains of Madness
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I'm a big fan of H P Lovecraft, and have a number of collections of his work, but I would recommend this one to anyone, fan or newcomer to his work. It has some of his finest and best-known stories, such as The Call of Cthulhu, with a few less well-known early works like The Hound. Very good value for money, a really good read.
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on 13 October 2014
This is a review of the audio book from Fantom Films but will no doubt be lumped in with the regular book reviews.

This is a dense and ominous tale that builds up the feeling of other worldliness throughout. Read by Phil Reynolds whose neutral yet interesting delivery really adds to the book, it spans three CDs and runs to around three hours. So engrossed was I in the tale that I ended up listening to all three one after the other on a rainy Sunday evening in a dark room and wow did it deliver.

The production is sparse in that (thankfully) it is predominantly the narrator's voice with slight musical accompaniment at only the beginning and end of the tale. This helps as some audio books use unnecessary audio FX to emphasise a creaky door or wind blowing whereas this tale leaves it to the voice of the reader and is all the better for it.

I was unfamiliar with this story and I have to say that the punch line was excellent and I did not see it coming.

I heartily recommend this audio book for those dark winter nights when a good ghost or horror story is the best entertainment to while a way a few enjoyable hours. Good creepy fun.
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on 2 September 2008
This is a collective review for "The Whisperer in Darkness" and "The Loved Dead", volumes 1 and 2 of Lovecraft's collected short stories. "The Whisperer in Darkness" comprises his own work, including some very early stories; "The Loved Dead" is made up of collaborative and ghost-written ventures (including one under Houdini's name), in which Lovecraft developed other writers' ideas and to a greater or lesser extent made them his own.

My spur to exploring Lovecraft at last, years after I first heard of him, was the discovery that Michel Houellebecq was a fan. (To be honest, he's probably a writer that it's easier to love in translation, but more of that later.) For Houellebecq the appeal, apparently, lies in Lovecraft's presentation of a hostile or indifferent universe, of immense age and size, in which humankind is a footnote and the individual human being even more insignificant. Humankind is preyed upon by huge malevolent forces, either powerful extraterrestrials or cruel gods (sometimes it is unclear which they are), that do so with as little compunction as homo sapiens preys upon the animals. Human civilisation and morality are a thin covering for the universe's hostility or indifference and an abiding motif is the portal that allows malevolent forces through that crust. In "The Whisperer in Darkness" Lovecraft generally locates that portal within his native New England; in "The Loved Dead" the locations vary more widely, from the prairies of the American West to the Pyramids of Egypt, as the presence of collaborators causes Lovecraft to diverge from his usual sources of inspiration.

There are some genuinely neck-prickling moments in here and some stories that make one uncomfortable when read late at night - "At the Mountains of Madness", for instance, which concludes "The Whisperer in Darkness", or "The Night Ocean", which concludes "The Loved Dead". There are also, however, serious weaknesses. The relative weight you give to these will depend on your personal taste, just as my marking of these volumes in terms of stars awarded reflects mine: make up your own mind.

The first weakness is repetitiveness. Perhaps unfair in that these were written as free-standing stories rather than as things to be read at a sitting; however, there does come a point at which one begins to count the moments until one of Lovecraft's pantheon of Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath and so forth rears his or her tentacled head, someone brandishes a manuscript of the accursed "Necronomicon" or talks of the nightmare city of Leng, and so on.

A more major caveat, I think, is the style, and here we return to him being easier to love in translation. Lovecraft, it's clear from the first volume, couldn't or wouldn't write dialogue; the collaborative works in "The Loved Dead" offer more attempts, but more common is the long monologue or the lavish use of free indirect speech. This does lead to a certain monotony of tone. This is exacerbated by the nature of that tone: we hear a lot about nameless rites, unspeakable orgies, indescribable horrors and so forth.

Related to this is a third weakness: the question of whether he can deliver the horror when needed, after the build-up. In some of the early works the conclusion is pretty weak - we have long creepy descriptions of mounting horror, then a quick concluding paragraph that tells us the narrator then saw the crowning horror but has been driven mad by it, or has decided to spare the world the full details - a long build-up to a damp squib ending. Perhaps this is implicit in Lovecraft's scenarios - when you build up towards the collapse of the world as humankind sees it and the unleashing of forces that will bring death and destruction to everything, rendering that in words (and, obeying normal conventions about the use of the past tense in narrative, in retrospect) is almost bound to be unconvincing. Better are the stories that keep something in reserve. In particular, "The Night Ocean" perhaps comes closest to Houellebecq's template. A painter rents a cottage by the sea and spends long hours walking along the shore; at first he enjoys it but as the summer ends and the weather turns hostile the alien nature of the ocean begins to oppress him, standing as it does for inanimate, indifferent matter that was here millions of years before him and would be unchanged by his extinction; meanwhile something unidentified is possibly preying on swimmers and at the end of the story the narrator has seen something a little like a man swimming (too well) in a stormy sea, carrying something over its shoulder. With that the story ends: a nicely-paced, genuinely chilling miniature that gets across the indifference to homo sapiens of a huge, godless universe, without any need for the usual tentacle-headed creatures and unpronounceable gods whose names are log-jams of consonants and random apostrophes.

Each volume has something to offer: some moments of genuine creepiness, some unintentional comedy and fuel for parody, and some moments where you realise where a band or song got its name. Whether these outweigh the undoubted longueurs is one for personal taste. Although I have quite a tolerance for late 19th / early 20th century pulp, I think that this is likely to be my lot with Lovecraft; but I don't doubt that, to use the time-honoured expression, people who like this sort of thing will find it the sort of thing they like. "The Loved Dead" is for completists only, containing as it does collaborations of wildly varying quality (whatever Lovecraft was paid for revising tosh like "Poetry and the Gods", it can't have been enough). Start with "The Whisperer in Darkness": Lovecraft fans will find some core material in the development of his mythology, and casual readers will get the gist of his vision and can decide whether they want to read more. Over to you...
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on 29 November 2012
A superb collection of stories from one of the original masters of the genre. For the price it represents great value for money.
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on 10 July 2013
good quality, good price , quick dispatch. and a worthy addition to my Lovecraft audio book collection. Will purchase more.
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on 18 December 2013
Well recommended. Great item and breand new. Great addition to anyones collection. A must for any avid fans. Worth it.
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on 16 December 2012
Forget Stephen King...for a true master of horror turn to H.P.Lovecraft...his stories are compelling ,well constructed and beautifully written. `The Whisperer In The Darkness` written 80 years ago can still hold it`s own against any of the more modern horror writers. This CD nicely read by Phi Reynolds is a good first dip into the strange but compelling world of Lovecraft...
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on 28 February 2012
Reading the stories in this novel actually made me feel uneasy. The genius of Lovecraft is that the fear and horror is implied, rather than straight up. I've yet to finish every story, but that doesn't stop me from recognising excellent writing when I see it. If you have any interest in Supernatural horror/mystery then I thoroughly recommend this book.
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on 20 August 2014
A great collection that collects and orders some of Lovecraft's best pieces nicely. A great intro to Lovecraft's creations that allows easy entry into a wonderfully secretive, dark and terrifying set of worlds (or one universe - you never know). Really enjoyed reading the collected version, keep on looking in the shadows now for cultists, fungi and sleeping oogly booglies.
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