The Spiraling Worm: Call of Cthulhu Novel (Call of Cthulhu Fiction) Paperback – 14 May 2008
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The Spiraling Worm offers seven stories sharing background, characters, and storyline depicting humankind's struggle against the Mythos.
Top customer reviews
That's not a bad thing, per se, and he did do good work, not just for kickstarting the Cthulhu Mythos, but for inculcating some sense of creeping dread in his readers, even if you might not have been sure what he was talking about all of the time. And as long as you like everyone dying.
The Spiralling Worm's authors, on the other hand, seem too scared to kill off the characters that they care about, even using the non-Euclidean geometric universes to cure their protagonists when Bad Things Happen. Lovecraft wouldn't have allowed you to cure your cancer by crossing dimensions, or if he had, you could guarantee you'd catch something worse.
Whereas in the Spiralling Worm, there's not really a sense of creeping dread; the whole thing is more like Cthulhu-pantomime, with men rushing around with guns and suitcase nukes and helicopters, and fighting back the nameless horrors from Beyond The Stars. Ftaghn! Etc.
Sadly, what we really read Lovecraft for is the feeling that everything is going to go wrong and we're all going to have our brains eaten. This is much less depressing - it's like reading a B-movie. It rushes along and you can overlook the cheesy (if not quite non-existent) characterisation, the barely choreographed fight sequences and the occasional failures to spell-check properly, but at the same time it never goes quite fast enough that you forget what you're reading.
Oh, and there's some truly dreadful material involving terrorists running around the catacombs of the Vatican, which read to me like it had been written by somebody who'd heard the plot of something by Dan Brown in a pub, and was trying to excite his five year old son by recounting it in whatever lurid detail he thought he could get away with. But if you wanted to base a Call of Cthulhu campaign off it, you'd probably enjoy yourself quite a lot. It really does have that feel of RPG-sourcebook rather than work of literature about it. If that sounds good, go for it - otherwise, stick to Charles Stross and The Atrocity Archives.
But this book breaks the mould. This book bites back. It grabs those tentacles and shoves them where R'lyeh doesn't shine! (yes I know that doesn't make sense but hey ho...)
No seriously, this book's ace, the cover threw me a bit, (never judge... etc etc..) as I thought it looked 'too cartoony' but the stories are far from that. If you like Spooks, which again is one of my favourite TV shows, or even the Professionals... or for that matter any 'spy' type show, or even Torchwood / Dr Who, then this is for you, reminded me a bit like Delta Green type stuff and indeed there could (please please please) be a sequel that may refer or even feature DG operatives in their fight against the Great Old Ones and their minions.
Great book, great characters, great stories. ;-)
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The stories are part James Bond / Tom Clancy and part "The Ring" and with a little of "The Da Vinci Code" thrown in. The monsters involved do much more than just eat you - and the threat they pose is also much more global in scope. The protagonists travel the world, uncover mysteries, and try like hell to keep the "incursions" from destroying all human life.
I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.
This is a great book to have and enjoy. You can read it from cover to cover or read the stories one at a time without a problem. The stories are linked by theme, characters, and an over arching story but can also be stand alone. It helps if you know your Lovecraft or you are a fan of Delta Green.
May I suggest either The Atrocity Archives or Delta Green: Alien Intelligence if you enjoyed this book?
HOWEVER. I'm one of those who read all the info on the front and back covers of the book before I start on the innards, and I was not happy to find that the editors had felt it necessary to print the full culmination of the final story on the back cover. This was a spoiler of epic proportions.
Buy the book, but do NOT read the cover text... What the HELL were they thinking? *sharon*
I am pretty familiar with the weird fiction of David Conyers; he has been a fixture in many of the new anthologies. We had the very nifty `Outside Looking In' in Hardboiled Cthulhu, a story were perception and reality are not the same thing, `Regrowth' from Arkham Tales, which concerned the melding of disparate forms of life and `False Containment' which is here and originally appeared in Horrors Beyond. I think `A Shared Romance' was in the short-lived Cthulhu Express. Mr. Conyers has had a fair number of his other stories in magazines of weird fiction. I am a bit less familiar with the stories of John Sunseri. I recall the very fine `The Hades Project' from Horrors Beyond, and the enjoyable `A Little Job in Arkham' from Hardboiled Cthulhu.
The mythos subgenre for this collection is by now well established, that is, the action packed noir cloak-and-dagger the government-is-in-it-up-to-their-necks mythos. For years great fiction of this sort has been published in the Delta Green books from Pagan Publishing, Cody Goodfellow's Radiant Dawn and Ravenous Dusk are masterful examples and Charlie Stross has weighed in with The Atrocity Archive and The Jennifer Morgue. He has also written what may be the absolute finest modern mythos story, `A Colder War', available in his collection Toast and the upcoming Cthulhian Singularity. The Spiraling Worm fits very comfortably into this company. If this is the sort of story you like, you are in for a real treat with this book. No helpless pasty-faced recluse cowering in a garret driven mad by his special knowledge of how terribly indifferent the universe is. Red blooded action heroes throw themselves into the breech, refusing to go gentle into that good night. Some housekeeping: The publisher is Chaosium. The Spiraling Worm is a 320 page paperback listing for $15.95 but discounted to $10.85 from Amazon, and available for free shipping if you order > $25 worth of books (like preordering Frontier Cthulhu...). The cover art looks kind of cool on the website but I don't know who did it and can't say much about it. Why? This is my biggest gripe about the book. I got the special edition hardcover, and while it is a nice cloth bound book, it does not have a slipcover and, thus, no artwork! Man did that peeve me! I guess I should have noted this before I bought it. Now I am left to wonder if I should buy the soft cover too.
Here are the contents:
Introduction: CJ Henderson
Made of Meat: Conyers (Originally published in Temple of Dagon, revised)
To What Green Altar: Sunseri (new)
Impossible Object: Conyers (Originally published in Dreaming in R'lyeh #2
False Containment: Conyers (Originally published in Horrors Beyond)
Resurgence: Sunseri (new)
Weapon Grade: Conyers (new)
The Spiraling Worm: Sunseri and Conyers (new)
About the Authors
************Spoilers may follow so stop reading if that bothers you!!*******
First of all, the Introduction and Afterward are very entertaining and also very useful in getting a handle on where the authors are coming from. Best of all, they let us now a follow on volume with the characters from this book is in the works already, and CJ Henderson will be contributing some stories!! I keep saying we are in the golden age of mythos fiction. The first three stories by Conyers were not written with this book of linked stories in mind. Instead Mr. Conyers was creating Major Harrison Peel, developing his character and stretching his wings in this particular subgenre. After Conyers ad Sunseri decided to collaborate on The Spiraling Worm the original Peel tales were ordered and perhaps slightly altered to fit into the timeline/story arc here.
In `Made of Meat' we are introduced to Major Peel, an Australian intelligence officer. Over the next few stories we get to know him quite well. Conyers doesn't write mythos stories for their own sake; the trappings are always at the service of clever plotting, believable character development, snappy dialogue and tightly written action scenes. The major is sent to look in on the Tcho Tcho people in Southeast Asia with the help of a British MI6 Agent James Figgs, a more jaded, hard bitten and enigmatic figure than the duty driven Major Peel. Someone in some government wants samples of Shub Niggurath spawn to develop into weapons.
`To What Green Altar' introduces us to NSA agent Jack Dixon. He and the ubiquitous Figgs go to Siberia on the trail of an insane cult that wants to invoke Cthugha in the middle of the Vatican. The Tunguska event from 1909 is finally explained. The aims of the cult are depressingly plausible in the modern world. The first two sections of this are my favorite prose by Sunseri.
`Impossible Object' is my favorite story by Conyers (What a wonderful dilemma to have! What is your favorite story by David Conyers?). It is the best story in the book and also, perhaps, the most Lovecraftian. The Australian government has uncovered an incredibly ancient city and found the title object in one of the rooms of this city. The Impossible Object is different to all observers, as well as mysterious and frequently deadly. Major Peel is on the scene and figures out what it must really represent. Tautly written, suspenseful and an edgy ending. Definitely worth a few rereads! I originally read it in its magazine version and am glad to have it in this collection.
`False Containment' is another winner from Conyers, probably my next favorite here. I already reviewed when I wrote about the anthology Horrors Beyond (I would rather have seen a different new story as this is already in a book we are all likely to own, but I see the appeal to having all the Major Peel stories in one collection). I think there has been a very slight modification, inclusion of a sentence or two to allow `Impossible Object' to better fit into the story arc. This was a pity, as my view in hindsight is that it lessens the power of the ending of `Impossible Object.'
After these stories we get into the main story arc of the anthology. `Resurgence' shows us some how or other, shoggoths are loose from their prison in Antarctica and are swarming to the mainland, including Australia. A few sentences are a nod toward Tim Curran's Hive and perhaps portend that Mr. Curran may be joining forces with the authors in future projects. Agent Dixon is point man against a shoggoth that is scouring Isla de los Estrados near Argentina while Major Peel must try to fend off its twin approaching Australia. What would it take for you to go nuclear? Unfortunately Major Peel is caught in the radioactive aftermath of the saving of Sydney. Also unfortunately a famous landmark (almost a world wonder...) had to be sacrificed.
`Weapon Grade' shows how the military applications of extra dimensional gates and shoggoth technology are too tempting to resist, and how far the cloak and dagger men of any government are willing to go to get an edge. Major Peel shows his true dedication to duty as well as resourcefulness as he tries to prevent the theft of shoggoth secrets while dying of radiation poisoning.
`The Spiraling Worm' brings all the players together (including Joss Plenary of the NSA). The setting is the Congo, where a grotesque band of rebels (cultists) have perhaps kidnapped a special forces Major Charles Ackerman. Figgs, Peel and Dixon (and a small army of SEALs and special forces) set out to track him down in the trackless jungle. The Spiraling Worm is one of the many names of Nyarlathotep, as ever trying to open holes in reality for Cthulhu et al to step/slither through. This was the longest story in the book and the culmination of some pretty remarkable story telling, as two talented authors combine their skills and characters. While I liked it a few details bugged me. First of all there was (a very small amount) some lecturing about the mythos pantheon, something that never jazzes me. I had some issues with a gang rape scene, although it was suitably horrific and not gratuitously specific. I cannot argue with it, but I did not like the denouement of agent Figgs. Maybe that's too harsh; rather, I liked him the way he was before the end of the story. At > 100 pages this is maybe a novella. It was necessary to have a story of some length to be able to tie all the plot threads together but it did miss some of the snap that made the other stories such corking good reads. Finally, at the very end Peel, Dixon and Plenary decide to form an agency to try to fend off mythos type threats (similar to Stross' Laundry or to Delta Green) and the way this was done seemed a bit pat. I guess it's too easy to be a critic; `The Spiraling Worm' (the story) all in all was a very satisfying read.
So that's about it! All in all I give The Spiraling Worm a rave. Two skilled authors at the height of their mythos story telling power give us the Lovecraftian smash of the summer. See if it doesn't keep you reading way past your bedtime, like me. Highly recommended! Can't wait for the sequel!
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