Abdul al Hazred, better known as the Mad Arab, was the author of the Necronomicon ("Book of the Law of the Dead"); a notorious tome that recounted his learnings and explorations of the occult mysteries of the vast and trackless wastes of the deserts of Sana'a. Best known as a hagiography of the Old Gods; Yog Sothoth, Cthulhu, Baal, Yig, Nyarlathotep, etc the Necronomicon is, in fact, a completely fictional work that exists only within the Cthulhu Mythos started by HP Lovecraft and perpetuated by a raft of like-minded authors ever since Howard Phillips (that incorrigible old racist) first put pen to paper.
However, Donald Tyson did in fact write and publish his own vision of the Necronomicon, and a fine and convincing rendition it is too. He followed it up with this, supposedly a biography of the Mad Arab himself. It starts with Alhazred's transgression, disgrace, torture and exile from the court of King Huban ibn Abd Allah in Yemen and thence follows the layout of Tyson's Necronomicon, as Our Hero consorts with ghouls, explores dead cities, partakes of human flesh (the more gamey the better, it would seem) and dabbles in necromancy and self-resurrection. Well, I say "dabble"... more like immerses himself entirely without recourse even to a pair of water-wings. Hardly surprising that no one ever came to his cocktail parties.
Like its predecessor, Alhazred is a well written and feverishly imaginative piece of work. It is fairly long and it does tend to drag through the middle. Having read Necronomicon immediately before hand, perhaps I was too familiar with the direction the plot was taking and with the occult details of the story within. Nevertheless, it's a good companion piece and adds flesh to the bones (so to speak...) of Tyson's addition to the Lovecraftian canon.
Well worth a read, but please don't forget to appease the Elder Ones with a sacrificial virgin after each chapter.
You'd be mad, too, if you had had to go through what poor Abdul had to endure. Though he started off pretty well as a handsome youth gifted for poetry and brought in at the court of the king of Yemen, his rather too close intimacy with the princess earned him an horrendous punishment, and exile in the Rub-alkali, the most cruel desert of the world. How he survived and launched a quest to discover the secrets of magic, gathering the knowledge of the Old Ones which he'll finally set down in his blasphemous work, "Al Azif", better known as the "Necronomicon", is the subject of this fat but enjoyable novel, which manages to be consistent with the H.P. Lovecraft works you'll find in Necronomicon: The Best Weird Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (Gollancz S.F.), yet enjoyable in itself, in case you're not familiar with HPL.
While Donald Tyson works in a style much more modern than Lovecraft's, in case you wondered, the whole work dovetails nicely with the Providence author's hints, and the whole biography is exciting and fun. Alhazred turns out to be a rather unpleasant character, selfish and ruthless, yet captivating.
Definitely worth reading, especially if you like H.P. Lovecraft.
I wont go into the details of the book as a full a precise description of that is on this page already. I can say though, this is one of the best books I have ever read. very few times in my life have I read something that made the pages disappear and allowed a full immersion into the world and peoples therein. Not written in lovecraft's style but fleshing out and realising the legend of the mad arab perfectly. it was with creeping and awful dread that I realised the pages where becoming fewer and fewer and my time in that world, discovering alongside alhazred was drawing to a close... I am consoled now by reading Necronomicon : the wanderings of alhazred. alhazred's account of his travels depicted in this book and it follows the steps flawlessly. Could it be possible for more of alhazred's wanderings Mr. Tyson.....? Ia! Tyson Ia!
ALhazred will be read again over and over until my sanity deserts me !
Enjoyed this books, bit grim and a bit long but for all that, it gave a new twist on the Necronomicon. Also on Lovecrafts writings about Cthulhu and the Mythos. Well worth the read. Tyson is a great writer with a lot of imagination. His other books in this group of books are well worth looking at.
I totally enjoyed this novel concerning the Mad Arabs life encounters with the lovecraft entities and travels through the middle east. One really gets a feel for the places the author describes - the catacombes under the Sphinx, the road of philosophers in Damascus.
I'd definately recommend this to anyone interested in the esoteric, horror or fantasy genres.