book review: that which should not be

I don’t like reviewing books I don’t like. It feels rude. So I’m not going to rip into Brett J. Talley’s That Which Should Not Be with great abandon.

This is a Lovecraftian tale about a young man at Miskatonic University who is sent by a mentor to find a book in the town of Anchorhead. In that town he goes to a tavern in a storm and listens to tales of horror from world-weary men. One is a Wendigo story, one is a cultists in Transylvania story, one is an Asylum story, one is a nautical ghost-ship/evil tome story. Then the young hero sails around the world and helps prevent Cthulhu from waking.

The thing about this book is that there wasn’t anything new or interesting done with any of those story-forms. They are all entirely old-fashioned in plotting and language. The language emulation leaves out a lot of Lovecraft’s purple prose, but it does use that formalized stiff diction that makes it sound like it was written a hundred years ago. If you have read any Mythos stuff before (really, if you’ve read any horror story from the last two hundred years) you’ve read the same thing.

The big philosophical problem I had with the book was the power of Judeo-Christian symbols in the face of the Mythos. Not to be a huge nerd about it, but these monsters cowering at crucifixes is completely antithetical to how I see the cosmology of a universe including Great Old Ones. There is altogether too much veneration of Christ in these stories to be effective Mythos tales.

I would not recommend this book to anyone but someone completely new to horror fiction.

Note: I received a free copy of this ebook through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program.

book review: the hollow earth

Rudy Rucker’s The Hollow Earth is a creative-commons licensed novel about a 15-year-old Southern gentleman and his slave and his dog and Edgar Allan Poe who go on an Antarctic expedition to the centre of the Earth. So yes, this is a continuation of my December Antarctica story binge, but I swear I didn’t know ahead of time.

It’s kind of a rollicking adventure tale that takes place back in the 1830s and is written in that sort of voice, but by a late-twentieth century writer. It’s startling how much of a difference that makes to the readability. It’s recognizably written in that impossible science style of exploratory wonder and 19th century diction but doesn’t require the same amount of reading through the gratingness. I’m going to have to come back to this to figure out how he pulled off the trick.

Not to say it’s a perfect book. Any of my difficulties with it were made up for in the afterword where some of the science and history behind the hollow earth theory (and the particular oddities of the construction in this tale) were laid out as proof of how this is a true story. Very neat.