Review

Review

Book Review: 'Lovecraft's Monsters' Edited by Ellen Datlow

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Lovecraft's Monsters, edited by Ellen Datlow and published by Tachyon Publications, is a reprint anthology of some carefully chosen and mighty fine Lovecraftian short stories, novellas and poems. A small selection of some of my favorites from this well-rounded collection include “Only the End of the World Again,” by Neil Gaiman; “Red Goat Black Goat,” by Nadia Bulkin; “The Same Deep Waters as You,” by Brian Hodge; “Love is Forbidden, We Croak and Howl,” by Caitlín R. Kieran; and “The Sect of the Idiot,” by Thomas Ligotti.

Neil Gaiman's “Only the End of the World Again” is the story of a unique “man” very much out of place in a strange town. Everyone seems to know who and what he is, and they all have an opinion on how he can get rid of or be relieved of his “ailment.” But there's more in store for him than he suspects. And he isn't the only one in the town who isn't quite what appearances suggest.

Nadia Bulkin's “Red Goat Black Goat” is a rather interesting Lovecraftian tale set in Indonesia. In a number of ways it is simply and methodically cold and terrifying. It also features a well-written, gut-wrenching ending. Ina Krisniati is a babysitter who trudges through miles of rainy muck in order to start her new job with a prominent family. She is responsible for two children, a headstrong and brave little girl and her gentle younger brother. But it turns out that the children already have a protector – an entity that doesn't like strangers and has some unique ways of showing both its fondness and its anger.

“The Same Deep Waters as You” by Brian Hodge starts off kind of like a science fiction/horror film. Kerry Larimer is an animal whisperer with a special talent for talking to dangerous, predatory creatures. Her services are needed by the US government for a specific and top-secret “project.” She is flown to a remote island where she is expected to produce results. However, she hardly expects what she finds waiting for her. Before long, Kerry is the centerpiece of a situation nearly a hundred years in the making, with beings far older and more sinister than she could ever imagine.

“Love is Forbidden, We Croak and Howl” by Caitlín R. Kieran is one of the shorter stories in the anthology, and is also surprisingly delightful. It's the dark, and yet still joyful tale of two very different types of “monsters” who fall in love despite the barriers between their kinds. 

Thomas Ligotti's “The Sect of the Idiot,” is also fairly short, but there is nothing joyful about it. The narrator is a man who finds comfort in knowing the nooks and crannies of his small and bizarre town. And yet, an unexpected visitor leads him to discover that what he knows barely scratches the horrific surface.

Other pieces in the collection include “Jar of Salts,” by Gemma Files; “Black as the Pit, from Pole to Pole,” by Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley; “Waiting at the Crossroads Motel,” by Steve Rasnic Tem; “I've Come to Talk with You Again,” by Karl Edward Wagner; “The Bleeding Shadow,” by Joe R. Lansdale; “That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable,” by Nick Mamatas (featured in the equally wonderful Lovecraft Unbound anthology); “Haruspicy,” by Gemma Files; and “Children of the Fang,” by John Langan.

All in all it is a terrific selection of works, and one that any fan of Lovecratian works should add to their collection.

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Nancy O. Greene started writing at the age of nine. Her short story collection, Portraits in the Dark, received a brief mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007. Other works have appeared or will appear in ChiZine; Lovecraft eZine; Cemetery Dance; Tales of Blood and Roses; Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror; Shroud Publishing's The Terror at Miskatonic Falls; Dark Recesses; Flames Rising; Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! and others. She has a BA in Cinematic Arts (Critical Studies) and a minor in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Southern California, and is a former Fellow of Film Independent's Project: Involve.

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