Tuesday, 12 June 2012
The Whisperer in Darkness - H P Lovecraft
I hadn't read any Lovecraft since I was a boy. They turned up in collections of horror fiction, but usually the short ones, and reading this collection has shown me that Lovecraft is most successful in novella form, when he has space to develop his cosmic theories, and time in which to layer up his arcane atmosphere.
The early short stories included here - Dagon, The Nameless City, The Hound, The Festival and The Call of Cthulhu - didn't really hit the spot for me. They only served to set the scene for the four much longer works that follow: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dunwich Horror, The Whisperer in Darkness and At the Mountains of Madness. The first two deal with Cthulhu as background only whereas the concluding stories address it head-on. Indeed, Mountains of Madness, is probably the most detailed exposition of the mythos that Lovecraft wrote. I particularly enjoyed the clever interplay between the cutting-edge technology of 1930 and the "elder secrets" it uncovers.
Otherwise, Dunwich Horror was my favourite, the story of the alarmingly precocious Wilbur Whateley and his ill-judged, ill-fated trip to Miskatonic University. Monster he may be, but Lovecraft manages to evoke sympathy for the boy's sad end.