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An Excellent Collection,
This review is from: The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
This third and last collection in the Penguin Classics H. P. Lovecraft annotated series combines much of Lovecraft's "lesser" fiction and some of his finest classics. This is the very first collection of Lovecraft's work that contains the corrected text of "The Shadow out of Time" since the discovery of Lovecraft's manuscript in January of 1995. (The remarkable story of that discovery is recounted in the fabulous edition of THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME published by Hippocampus Press, still available.) The story has been hailed as Lovecraft's supreme masterpiece, and it is an excellent example of Lovecraft's blending weird (but not supernatural) fiction with the then-new genre of science fiction.
Many of these early tales shew the influence of Dunsany, and some of them have been called Lovecraft's "Dreamland" tales. The matter of which of HPL's tales are actually set in the Dreamlands has been exhaustively examined by editor Joshi in his essay, "The Dream World and the Real World in Lovecraft" (which may be found in his collection of essays from Hippocampus Press, PRIMAL SOURCES--ESSAYS ON H. P. LOVECRAFT). Other tales, such as "The Terrible Old Man," and "The Strange High House in the Mist," are set in the mythical towns of Lovecraft's invention (such as Dunwich, Arkham and Kingsport), and they reveal Lovecraft's growing fascination with the legends of New England.
One of my favourite of Lovecraft's tales is "The Nameless City," which was never sold professionally during his lifetime. It is one of the very early tales that mentioned Abdul Alhazred (but does not yet link him to ye dreaded Necronomicon). In this book we also find "The Lurking Fear," which Lovecraft wrote as a serial to be published in sections in a semi-professional magazine. What fascinates me about Lovecraft is that even his so-called "minor" stories are so interesting and effective, and this may be said for that wee tale of mysterious legend and terror, "The Unnamable."
Here we have some few of the tales involving Randolph Carter. Many people have found "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" rather dull. I have just re-read the novelette as part of my research for my new book, a collection of weird tales involving Nyarlathotep, and with each new acquaintance with "Dream-Quest" I find it more and more enchanting and fascinating and rewarding. Some, such as Lin Carter, have claimed that "Dream-Quest" is in no way a story of the Cthulhu Mythos -- and that is nonsense. It combines aspects of Lovecraft's Dunsanian stories with his growing body of Cthulhu Mythos lore. We must remember that "Dream-Quest" was never polished for professional publication but is a rough draft of a story that he discarded after writing it. Still, it is delightful and has much to commend it, superb language and playful imagination. It is, in short, brilliant.
S. T. Joshi has included an interesting Introduction and full annotations. This is probably not the best book to begin with if you are new to reading H. P. Lovecraft, but it contains many gems, and the tales keep their interest over time, and may be returned to again and again.
Introduction by S. T. Joshi
The Doom that Came to Sarnath
The Terrible Old Man
The Cats of Ulthar
The Nameless City
The Other Gods
The Lurking Fear
The Shunned House
The Horror at Red Hook
In the Vault
The Strange High House in the Mist
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
The Silver Key
Through the Gates of the Silver Key
The Dreams inthe Witch House
The Shadow out of Time
[Notes and Annotations]
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