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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
H. P. Lovecraft Omnibus 1: At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels of Terror
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on 8 November 2013
When you read this you will realise how far some modern day writes have to go to write with pace and how to sustain tension . I had heard he was good but not only does one get a good story but a lesson in writing .
I have found myself re-reading parts out of pleasure. I intend to read as much of this man as possible !
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 July 2014
This cheery little book of fun tales was my baby's favourite bedtime story reader for many years. How she giggled and gurgled at the antics of the amusing Shoggoths and their merry band of friends...

Now she's stolen my copy and it's in her bedroom somewhere.

Mountains of Madness is among my favourite short stories, if not THE favourite short story in my, er, _her_ collection. It's very clearly, though uncredited, the inspiration for The Thing From Another World but because it evolved via John W. Campbell's story "Who Goes There?" there's no case to answer. What is particularly wonderful about this story is the creation of atmosphere. Lovecraft famously excels at creating "atmosphere" in his writing perspective of the terrified beyond reason narrator who has glimpsed something whose full contemplation must necessarily drive anyone completely and irrevocably insane, but that's not what I mean here. Lovecraft gives us a sense of being there, even in few words.
The airplane flights.. I can feel myself in the freezing, unpressurised Dornier and smell the oil, hear the engines, feel the vibration and enjoy the anticipation of reaching somewhere alien and wonderful, yet bleak and inhospitable. Lovecraft manages to imply all this almost by omission in snatches of dialogue, turns of phrase without resorting to tedious travelogue.
You either know the story or you're in for the treat of your life. Every time I hear that a film might be made I panic, horrified that it might not do the book justice. Maybe Stuart Gordon could direct a decent adaptation, or Peter Jackson - but I suspect that any film maker will stylize it with his own spin and miss the beauty of the original.

There are the other stories in the volume, all of them crackers. I would recommend this above all the other titles to anyone new to Lovecraft and indeed, if I could only take on of his books to my desert island, this would be the one.

Thirty years ago, Lovecraft was largely unheard of outside of the collections of certain daylight-shunning and moribund individuals who would bookend Agrippa with Charles Dexter Ward and Paracelcus or Regardie with crumbling and yellowed copies of revelatory expositions of encounters with Cthulhu. Now it is becoming, by inexorable insinuation, mainstream. The logical extrapolation of this is the inevitable release of Call of Cthulhu by Disney. They did it with The Hunchback of Notre Dame - who would ever have thought it? Thrill to the dancing, many tentacled Old Ones having a great old knees-up, wearing ice skates..

I shudder at the horror of it.
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on 2 March 2006
This collection, the first of three volumes, may well represent the pinnacle of Lovecraft's creative genius. His knack for conjuring the most horrific and fantastical of atmospheres is unparalleled; these stories will have you shuddering with captivated horror at the incredible otherworldly landscapes and monstrosities leaping from their pages.
Plagued with a great sensitivity to cold from a young age, Lovecraft's first novel "At the Mountains of Madness" was perhaps a little closer to home than any other piece he attempted, and its sublime execution would perhaps imply this further. Regardless, this tale is arguably the greatest of the man's catalogue, with a gradual, drawn-out build up of tension and isolation into a frantic climax in a world so alien, beautiful and deadly. Reading this made me long to live in a world where such places as Antarctica still existed unexplored and mysterious, potentially housing that which men of the time could barely dream of. One loses oneself in those icy peaks, those ancient ruins, and yet one always feels as if they are not quite alone...
"The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" is next in line, and one can't help but feel sceptical as to how this piece will fare up against the previous mountain of a story. Don't let the slow start sway you - this one's darn great too! As with "Mountains...", Lovecraft creates an ominous atmosphere this time via gradual exploration of Curwen and Charles' dark discoveries, once again motivated by wild curiosity. Yet in this piece something far more disturbing and horrific lurks, implied constantly in Lovecraft's subtle narrative. Less beautiful, fantastical and isolating perhaps, but all the more human and realistic and TERRIFYING as a result. There is a scene involving darkness and a pit (not going into detail here for fear of spoiling it) which will stay with you for a damn long time - a claustrophobic nightmare.
Next in line comes a little break from the longer novels, with what I consider to be the least absorbing story in the volume, "The Dreams in the Witch-House". It's pretty telling that I can't remember much about this whereas I remember the previous two vividly. I recall being somewhat intrigued with the combination of mathematics, folklore, multi-dimensions and the like, but the main plot isn't all that gripping. Worth reading, nontheless.
The following four stories all focus upon a character named Randolph Carter - a man whose personality is founded upon a pursuit of the beauty found in dreams. It has frequently been said that this character is most representative of Lovecraft himself, and I must admit feeling great empathy towards him in "The Silver Key", a short prequel to "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", which can easily be read as a commentary on a dry and absurd society - as relevant now as it was then.
The best of these tales is perhaps "The Dream-Quest of the Unknown Kadath", which whilst seemingly having less focus and direction than his other two novels, is just filled to the brim with wonderous landscape after wonderous landscape packed full of creatures both stunning and diabolical. Carter's quest for the paradise city of his dreams is bizarre, yet wholly enticing. The previously mentioned "Through the Gates of the Silver Key" is also very atmospheric, though not a journey - this shorter story involves Carter's gradual venture into the realms of beings of chaos which dwarf humankind, and reveals much about the workings of the dream-world Lovecraft has created.
Lovecraft has created a mythos, from terrible beasts and Gods to ancient old writings and lands, which renders his readers both fascinated and ultimately insignificant in comparison. Treat yourselves folks, this is dark, atmospheric literature done properly. 5 stars don't do it justice.
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on 31 March 1999
Technically, I shouldn't really be reviewing this, as I haven't finished reading the book (I'm on page 527 of 547 pages), but seeing that no-one else is going to give this brilliant collection of wonderfully macabre stories a review, I feel that it is my duty to alert the world to this chilling masterpiece. What you basically have in this thick, tastelessly designed book (I suspect that the bizarre cover picture has put off many wouldbe Lovecraft fans) are Lovecraft's three full-length stories (The Mountains of Madness, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and Dreams in the Witch House) and his four Randolph Carter stories (The Statement of Randolph Carter, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, The Silver Key and Through the Gates of the Silver Key). All of them have in common a unique style of writing which is quite off-putting at first, but you find yourself pressing on because the actual stories themselves are quite brilliant.sinisterly linked subjects. At the Mountains of Madness is quite hard to get into, and I forsee some people giving up quickly (I did, only to return to it much later), but the events describe and the things that Dyer and Danforth find out from the ancient city on the platue make comulsive reading. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is even better, and I for one could not put it down. The ending is very clever indeed. Dreams in the Witch House is different from the first two, but in concept rather than style, as it deals with Colonial witches. If you can get through the bizarre other-plane scenes with their vague and dreamy descriptions then you'll probably find that this is the scariest of tall the stories in the book. Once again, it is not so much the descriptions that make the story (as they do in most other tales) but the actual events. The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is like none of the other stories, and although it starts off as passable fantasy, it quickly becomes unreadable. Even the introduction condemns it. The Silver Key follows on from Dream Quest, but is completely different. It is more of a psychological study and social satire that gradually turns into a Charles Dexter Ward-style mystery. Very compulsive reading. Through the Gates of the Silver Key is more of the same, only it tells the story of what happens after Ward goes into the forest in more detail, although the vagueness that surrounds any description of events on other planes makes going a bit hard half-way through. So then, buy this book, tear out pages 361 to 487 and sit down to an evening of horror. Bwahahaha!
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on 23 February 2002
The first of three omnibus editions of the great mans work. This one includes his longer works.
Anyone with any interest in the horror genre will be aware of Lovecraft ... many of his stories have been made into films over the last few years - with varying degrees of success (re-animator, from beyond etc). But this is the source material. When reading his work you can really see where modern authors of horror have been influenced - Stephen King, Clive Barker, James Herbert and especially Ramsay Campbell and Brain Lumley who have both extended the Cthulhu Mythos in their own work.
Lovecrafts style is unique, many stories weren't released until after he had died, in the main because he thought they were poor. He was most disappointed when 'at the montains .. ' was rejected. When reading stories in this volumne I was struck with the contrast in his writing - the macarbe and the surreal. I find his more macarbe tales the readable .. whereas 'Dreamquest of unknown Kadath' his less accessible.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is pure classic .. possibly my favourite horror story from any author. The atmosphere and descriptive nature has he builds the story is superb. I was left guessing until the end as to what was happening. The passages when Dr Willett is exploring the cottage is gripping to say the least.
Anyone who has seen the 'The Thing' will understand the nature of 'at the Mountains of Madness'.. a slower story than Dexter Ward but no less satisfying...again many of the horrors are left to the readers imagination.
All the stories in this book are more than worthwhile .. and any fan of the genre will be left wanting more. This is classic in all the sense of the phrase. Gothic, atmospheric , an absolute must.
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on 4 January 2017
I ordered this book on the 20th December and stil waiting for it. Very disappointed!!
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on 26 July 2015
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on 30 August 2000
This is the 1st of the three Lovecraft collections available in the UK, and is, in my opinion, the 2nd best of the three volumes. This volume contains Lovecraft's three longest tales (they are novellas rather than novels as the title suggests) and the four Randolf Carter stories. Of the 3 novellas, "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" stands head and shoulders above the other two, and is my single favourite HPL work. It boasts a superbly realised plot (with some excellent twists), superb period detail, and some splendid moments of real terror throughout. The story concerns the title chracter Ward who, when pleasantly bemused to discover that he is a direct descendant of a singularly despised and feared demonologist executed for watchcraft some 200 years before, decides to dig up (literally) his ancestor's past. The unlucky Ward finds more than he bargained for and soon begins to suspect he is merely a pawn in a plot of cosmic proportions to allow to Great Old Ones back through from the void onto their original home - our planet Earth. The novella was filmed as (ironically) "The Haunted Palace" with Vincent Price and Lon Channey - the title is Poe's but the plot and characters are Lovecraft. "At the Mountains of Madness" is another excellent story based around a very convincing (this was written in th 1920s remember) report of a doomed expedition to the South Pole by a team of scientists using planes, ships and dog sleds. It contains echoes of The Thing From Another World and boasts a very slow, steady build of terror (which put off many of the story's original critics); and some fantastic description of an utterly alien city that does not even conform to our own physical laws. I like this one, but it is an acquired taste and even HPL himself was dismayed by the story's general failure on first publication. The 3rd novella, "Dreams in the Witch House" is creepy but forgetable and only a minor contribuor to the Cthulhu Mythos. [Cthulhu Mythos: the accepted name for the mythology established by Lovecraft's greatest works; based on the fundamental theory that Mankind is merely an accident or joke in the grand scheme of a universe ruled by cosmic dieties of such unbelieveable power and sanity-blasting scope that humans should beware of every little shadow and bump in the night - a daring concept for the 1920's when most of these stories were produced.] Randolf Carter (HPL's alter-ego) appears in the last four (fairly mediocre) tales here. The best of these is the surreal "Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath" which reads more like Lord Dunsany than HPL's typical glooming, brooding dark shadows and strange piping sounds in the night horror. (i.e. far more dark fantasy than cosmic horror). The plot concerns a quest by the title character to find a forbidden city somewhere in the Dreamlands of human unconcious. Carter literally falls asleep to begin his quest and then wanders the real (i.e. chartable, and consistent to themselves) areas of the Dreamlands where the dangers and horrors are just as threatening and, well, real as in real life. The journey is fraught with peril and encounters with fabulous, surreal characters and monsters. Carter sails from the Earth to the Moon in a sinister galley, climbs mountains ruled by the fearful Nightgaunts just to look upon the carved face of a God, befriends grave-robbing Ghouls, has confabs with the Cats who rule Earth's rooftops in the dark of night, gets involved in a major war between the Cats, Ghouls and Moonbeasts and even thwarts Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos - and all this while snoring in bed! This quite remarkable story is Lovecraft's "Odyssey" if you will. I believe this volume is not the best introduction to HPL and it may put readers off this wonderful author - especially the painfully slow pace of "At the Mountains of Madness". It is valuable in that it showcases Lovecraft's two writing styles: the dark and macabre Cthulhu stories (which the author is most associated with), and fantastic and surreal Dreamlands stories (Kadath). These as so disparate that they can often feel they have been produced by a different author. Or at least an author in two different states of mind, or two planes of sanity (if you'll allow me to borrow concepts from the great man himself!). For my money, the Cthulhu stuff wins hands down and thus renders a fair bit of this volume as "baggage". Get the marvellous volume 3 instead (The Haunter of the Dark) - especially if you are new to the 20th century's master of terror. [But don't forget to read The Case of Charles Dexter Ward in this volume when you are ready. It's a cracker!]
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on 5 February 2001
I cannot reccomend this (and the other 2 volumes of the H.P Lovecraft omnibus) too strongly. Although "At the mountains of madness" isnt his best story, this book is still a must have. "Dreams in the Witch house" (what a title, eh?) is one of the best stories he ever wrote. I won't waste time here trying to describe the way this mans literature makes me feel.. just putting it into words would strip it of so much.
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on 4 December 2012
No devotee of H.P. Lovecraft should miss having this volume in their collection: however the reader who has broader tastes should be aware that the volume may not appeal to them as much. "At the Mountains of Madness" contains seven of HPL's longer works, three of which are his short novels. Like the canon of Lovecraft's work as a whole, the stories display some inconsistency in quality, however there are in the works real passages of power which render them a rewarding read.
The best of these, I feel, is the title story, "At the Mountains of Madness." This was frequently deprecated and revised by the author himself, who had some misgivings about it. It tells of a journey into uncharted lands in Antarctica, and the discoveries therein of the remains of alien races who visited the Earth in prehistoric times. The story seems to be an attempt to explain the Cthulhu Mythos, and as such contains lengthy descriptions of the race and its culture, which would actually be unwarranted in an initial exploration. It also reads like an archaeological tract, and lacking any real dialogue throughout, has a somewhat stodgy and trudging pace. Lovecraft himself realised this during his revisions. Despite this, the story contains an atmosphere of mystery, cumulative tension and real snatches of spectral terror, as in the hints of unnaturally high mountain ranges flung into the edge of space, glimpsed partially through the eyes of a frightened pilot. "At the Mountains of Madness" leans closely towards the field of SF, which much of Lovecraft's later work begins to approximate.
"The case of Charles Dexter Ward" is a much less accomplished work, being overly long and rather melodramatic, also having a laboured pace in search of an obvious conclusion. It tells of an individual who has obtained several re-incarnations through witchcraft, and the means by which he is identified as a wizard by terrified local citizens. The story "the Alchemist", one of Lovecraft's very early tales, provides a key to the work, of which it seems a fore-runner.
"The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" is a lengthy form of Lovecraft's Dunsanian works, and indeed contains number of characters and ideas set out in his early tales such as "The Cats Of Ulthar", "Celephais" and " "the Quest of Iranon." It is one of the Randolph Carter stories, (a version of Lovecraft himself) in which he explores some of his own ideas in a dream format. Some of Dunsany's influence can still be seen in this and "the Silver Key/Through the Gates of the Silver Key." Less structured than "At the Mountains of Madness", these tales have a rambling quality that interferes with the build-up of tension in the best of HPL's stories.
The reader can see a shift in Lovecraft's ideas suggesting that he may have been moving from mere horror to a kind of more mature version of SF/Horror predating other writers who have since worked in this vein. There is, I feel, a clear indication of a gradual maturing of his fantastic work which was never fully developed owing to his untimely death. The stories in this volume cannot really stand as the best of HPL, but they seem to represent the development of a vein which promised enormous potential. A laboured read in places, but worth it at times for the pulse of horror and glimpses of real power which can be found among the rambling. The devotee must not ignore these stories, the connoisseur must decide for himself.The flavour of the stories is purely original, and not to be found in the writings of other authors. Recommended with some reservation.
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