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3.5 out of 5 stars
6
3.5 out of 5 stars


VINE VOICEon 12 March 2017
A continuation of the H P Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu” cycle of the stories set in 1990’s Britain, the eponymous Occult scientist Titus Crowe and his Watsonian sidekick Henri Laurent de Marigny face off against eldritch horrors burrowing beneath the Earth.
It has the tone of Victorian gothic melodrama, being told in an epistalatory fashion, with heroes who have a curiously old fashioned vibe of daring do about them. And although its set in the 90’s, there are very little by way of cultural signifiers that would place the story there, apart from the odd mention of oil rigs, phones and cars. Taken together with the above mentioned style, for the first quarter of the narrative I genuinely thought I was in pre-war Britain.
And for the most part it works, adding to the feeling of fog shrouded streets and tentatcled, timeless horrors in the shadows. It gets off to a good start, with a series of letters about the discovery of mysterious spheres in inexplicably carved tunnels underground. We soon learn of other underground scientific expeditions that have ended in horror, madness and disaster, and of a race of terrifying burrowing tentacled monsters and their place in a pantheon of alien horrors that have existed before our world began. They are not interested in a planet share…
There are some great set pieces; the destruction of an oil rig; battles between telepathic fighters, explosive harpoons and giant creatures; a renevant creature with a body of slime holding a human brain, and more.
The narrative as a whole, though, is a little too reliant on massive info dumps and chunks of exposition, as our heroes consult and reference various occult sources to explain the nature and history of this threat. There are also a lot of passages that are there purely to set up future stories in the Titus Crowe series. And it has a very open, cliff hanger of a conclusion. As a result this reads more of an account of a skirmish in a bigger war, rather than a stand alone story.
That said it does not require any previous reading or knowledge of Lovecraft’s works, and could be a good jumping on point for a very rich tradition in horror fiction. I listened to the audio book of this novel, and it’s read by Simon Vance, whose cool, civilised tones suit the tale perfectly. And kudos to him for his seemingly effortless pronunciation of the tongue twisting, syllable crashing Cthulian chants and alien names.
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VINE VOICEon 9 November 2013
Definitely the antidote to H P Lovecraft. British author Lumley takes the 'Cthulhu Mythos' of American Gothic author Lovecraft and asks, How would it be if the monsters and alien space gods of the Mythos were all a bit, you know, 'meh', and humans could kick their Cyclopean backsides? And the answer is: very stupid indeed.

On the plus side, Lumley makes some positive contributions to the Mythos in the forms of the earth-burrowing Cthonians (think: giant telepathic subterranean squid-worms) and sea-Shoggoths. On the negative side, the Miskatonic University is now S.H.I.EL.D., Elder-Signs keep Mythos monsters at bay like crucifixes repel vampires, and Lovecraft's brand of cosmic existential dread has been fixed by the brisk intervention of the Civil Service. On top of this bland pastiche, we have to suffer the main protagonist (though not, mercifully, the main narrator) Titus Crow, who is one of the more annoying Mary Sues that fan fiction has thrown up.

Look, it's an easy read. The Wendy-Smith digression on G'harne, Cthonians and the burrowers beneath is actually a taut and satisfying novella. But overall, this is lacklustre stuff.
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on 8 October 2013
This was Lumley's first novel, but also a bit of a fix-up from previously published stories; "Cement Surroundings" and "The Night Sea-Maid Went Down" were short [good] early Cthulhu Mythos stories. In THE BURROWERS BENEATH, Lumley has linked the stories together and extended their scope, though the novel is largely an expansion of "Cement Surroundings", concerning the exploits of Shudde-M'ell, a huge octopoid burrowing creature, a Great Old One, and his similar children. When these creatures move around under the surface of the Earth, they produce tremors and earthquakes, and can be tracked with seismological devices. Lumley's idea is that these creatures are responsible for many earthquakes and tremors throughout history; originally imprisoned by the Elder Gods beneath Africa, they have now broken free and are reproducing and massing.

The main characters here are from some of Lumley's earlier stories; Titus Crow is a psychic scholar of the Occult, and his friend and colleague, Henri de Marigny. Together, they become more convinced and involved in Shudde-M'ell's exploits across England, and later are recruited by the Wilmarth Foundation, an organisation emanating from Miskatonic University to identify, track down and destroy [where possible] the wide plethora of Cthulhu Cycle Deities that are still extant and active on Earth. The idea is that these entities [Shudde-M'ell, Cthulhu, Hastur, Azathoth, Ithaqua, etc] and their minions [shoggoths, Deep Ones, Mi-Go, etc] once imprisoned by the Elder Gods, are now breaking free and causing havoc, while the Wilmarth Foundation attempt to hold them at bay and cover-up the whole thing.

Like many writers before him, Lumley has taken the concepts of Lovecrafts Cthulhu Mythos as a centrepiece for his Titus Crow stories, but has taken the ideas in his own, more modern, direction. Lovecrafts protagonists were usually weak, ineffectual, passive, and more likely to faint or `not find adequate words to describe the horror'. Lumley's characters have more of the modern age about them, and fight back; Lovecrafts guys would never have created the Wilmarth Foundation. Lumley's interpretation of the Mythos is more physical, more monster-movie than cosmic horror; he has solidified Cthulhu, filled in the jigsaw that Lovecraft began, and later Derleth joined up, and brought a bit of Order to Chaos. Lumley's interpretation was original and modern but was disliked by many traditional Mythos fans. Personally, I find this new [in the 1970's] approach to be refreshing; I enjoy very much traditional tales [as does Lumley], but I don't believe that Lumley should be disparaged because of his innovative approach.

THE BURROWERS BENEATH uses a traditional Lovecraftian device of letters and journals, and though this seems to increase the pace and veracity of the book, there is always a slight detachment to the action, especially in the final chapters which cover an extended period of time in a short space. As a novel, it wobbles a little, it doesn't seem quite even somehow, but is packed with great ideas and observations on the Mythos [eg, Azathoth is The Big Bang, while Nyarlathotep is telepathy], and is infused with an obvious love for Lovecrafts original stories, many of which he weaves into the narrative. On a more personal note, large parts of the book are set in the North of England, where both Lumley and myself were born, and it's fun to see local [slightly changed] place names being visited by the horrific creatures.

Really this novel is the first in a long sequence of six, telling the story of Titus Crow and the Wilmarth Foundation. In addition,there are a number of short stories telling of more, earlier, exploits of the character. THE BURROWERS BENEATH is a fast, engaging read, ending on a cliffhanger; I look forward to reading more.

NOTE; Though THE BURROWERS BENEATH has never been filmed, I believe it has been an uncredited inspiration on several films, most notably BEHEMOTH [2011] in which a vast tentacled underground `God' is responsible for tremors and earthquakes, and at the end pops out of the top of a mountain. There are also similarities in the films MONGOLIAN DEATH WORM [2010], THE BURROWERS [2008], and in the popular TREMORS series.
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VINE VOICEon 6 June 2007
'The Burrowers Beneath' is the first in a series of novels featuing the exploits of Titus Crow and Henri-Laurent de Maringy as they battle against the alien terrors of Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, here focusing on the war against the giant worm-like Cthonians. Lumley follows here very much in the footsteps of August Derleth's controversial Christian-influenced revised take on H.P. Lovecraft's mythos, with the evil Great Old Ones being offset by a group of friendly Elder Gods, but despite this there is still plenty of gruesome action here, though the novel as a whole feels rather fractured and shows evidence of being a fix-up of earlier short-stories. The biggest criticism here is that by creating a worldwide force of heroes to combat the evils of the Cthulhu Mythos Lumely does rather relegate Lovecraft's mysterious otherworldly creations into rather conventional monsters to be fought and defeated, but this is a brisk and mostly entertaining pulp adventure.
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on 31 July 2014
Just couldn't get into it. All the unpronounceable and silly names for the endless number of elder gods and it takes an age for it to get going, in the end I gave up on it half way through. I really like Lumley's Necroscope and Vampire World series but I won't be continuing with Titus Crow.
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on 4 June 2013
Titus Crow wow I have waited a long time to finally get to read these books could not get them for love or money now at long last released on the kindle brilliant
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