I came to the world of H.P. Lovecraft rather late. I was aware of him, of course, but had never actually read any of his stories. His influence is vast and overarching. It is impossible to read in this genre and not feel his shadow, knowingly or otherwise. It is ironic that an author so concerned with the uncanny and the unknowable should become himself so familiar. Lovecraftian stories are a genre to themselves, comforting almost, if terrible horror and unknowable abominations can be called comforting.
Ellen Datlow has edited several Lovecraftian anthologies. Lovecraft’s Monsters focuses, as the title suggests on the monsters. Some of those featured in the stories are more recognizable than others, so Datlow has helpfully provided an index at the end, a glossary of Lovecraftian horrors.
There are eighteen stories in the anthology, most of them previously published. The author’s list reads as a who’s who of familiar and respected names in horror. As with all anthologies, some stories were better than others. “The Same Deep Waters as You” by Brian Hodge, “Inelastic Collisions” by Elizabeth Bear, “Waiting at the Crossroads Motel” by Steve Rasnic Tem, and “The Bleeding Shadow” by Joe R. Lansdale were the four standouts for me with Neil Gaiman, Thomas Ligotti and Karl Edward Wagner’s offerings not far behind.
“The Same Deep Waters as You” follows the host of a popular ‘ Animal Whisperer’ TV show as she is drafted by the US military in an attempt to communicate with several mutated prisoners taken from Innsmouth. Rather than grate, the modern day setting puts a new spin on perhaps the most famous of Lovecraft’s monsters and settings. Brian Hodge approaches from a different angle and provides a well-written slice of the uncanny.
“Inelastic Collisions” describes two fallen angels, Hounds of Tindalos, in their attempts to acclimate themselves to a human existence as only Lovecraftian angels can. It has just the right amount of twisted horror, and angst, and dark hungry creatures in human form.
“Waiting at the Crossroads Motel” is the story of an abusive, possibly inhuman father who takes his family to a motel in the middle of nowhere and waits, while more and more guests arrive all as oddly inhuman as he is. Steve Rasnic Tem perfectly captures the dreamlike sense of disquiet that characterized Lovecraft at his best.
“The Bleeding Shadow” by Joe R. Lansdale is my favorite story in the collection. A tale of private eyes, jazz, and eldritch abominations. This is well-crafted noir horror that places Lovecraft in an unusual setting and makes it sing.
**Received copy from NetGalley for review