I was told once that every fan of Horror Literature has to have a Lovecraft faze, like a rite of passage. You stumble across his work, usually some time in your teens, become obsessed for a little while and then move on to brighter stars. Well, I have a dirty little secret to admit: I’ve never moved on. Some part of me has not been able to look away ever since that glorious moment that I began to connect the ties of the broad, intricate and complex tapestry he wove across his tales. Sure, his work is racist, elitist and his writing style is dryer than a Mi-Go’s gaping bung but he created a deep and rich mythology and world-view that has wormed its way into the majority of our pop-culture.
Even better is when someone takes that mythology and stretches it further by tying it into other continuums and writing styles. I just about crapped myself in joy when I first read Shadows Over Baker Street, and then the same friend to bring that wondrous tome into my world slaps Cthulhu Unbound in front of me. Another anthology centered around displacing the big C and friends into strange(r) people and places… Chris, I think I love you.
The very first page brings us “Noir-lathotep” by Linda L. Donahue, where my favorite member of the crew finds himself in the guise of a hard boiled detective trying to solve his own murder, or at least that of one of his aspects. Add in Mi-Go, Shuggoths, Yith, Brown Jenkin and a Haunter and mix for a damn sharp and incredibly funny yarn. Now I want you to take a moment to absorb that before we move on so that you are sure you understand where we are headed here.
Certainly, the more humorous tales here captivated me the most. “Bubba Cthulhu’s Last Stand” takes a Squidbillies approach to our great tentacled devourer mashed into a cheesy D&D run (including basic bug level and ninjas, oh my!) that is all just a cover for a kamikaze unicorn attack. Simply Gorgeous. Then there is John Claude Smith’s hot shot of glowing green mythos juice into the waiting veins of a certain deified gonzo journalist, “The Shadow Over Las Vegas”. I now know that reading can trigger flashbacks from drugs I’ve never taken.
But there are some kick-ass, dead serious permutations (like how I worked the publisher’s name in there… witty, huh) here as well. In “The Invasion out of Time”, Trent Roman locked me into the mind of a lone Chinese Pilot tragic part in the war to repulse a worldwide invasion of one of those nasty polypous races from the deep planetary interior. “Hellstone and Brimfire” is an ugly, gritty western that does Jonah Hex justice and D.L. Snell lays out a hard-assed bit of sci-fi adventure in a world overrun with the squiggly nasties and noxious bloodsuckers in “Blood Bags and Tentacles”.
And how the hell do you describe Bennet Reilly’s conflicted tale of love between Ancient ones, “Star-Crossed”?
Yes, there are a few dull bits (the worst offender being the overlong and ultimately heartless “The Hindenburg Manifesto”) and missteps (“Locked Room” turns Holmes’ desired locked room mystery into a bit too over-the-top wizards and warriors romp) as well as some basically forgettable pieces (if I could remember their names, then they wouldn’t be forgettable). And yes, there have been a tad too many Lovecraft-type anthologies lately. But I still can’t get enough of it and I enjoyed the hell out of reading this.
And Permuted Press already has a follow-up out, so get out there and pick one up for me to borrow, Chris.