Friday, October 9, 2015

Lovecraft Ascending

The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft: Dreams of Terror and Death (1995) by H.P. Lovecraft, containing the following stories (Publication dates in brackets):

Introduction: Concerning Dreams and Nightmares by Neil Gaiman: Enjoyable but light on context and somewhat glib. The volume could really use a historical overview of its contents to establish a context for the stories, along with both composition and publication dates for all the stories.

  • Azathoth (1922): Short prose poem/fragment.
  • The Descendant (1926) : Fragment.
  • The Thing in the Moonlight (1934): Fragment.
  • Polaris (1920): It's an oddity all right, one that could be sub-titled 'Angry Man Yells at North Star.'
  • Beyond the Wall of Sleep (1919): A scientific romance of multiple personalities got turned into a mostly unfaithful movie.
  • The Doom That Came to Sarnath (1920): Maybe the best of Lovecraft's short, moody Dunsanian horror stories. Introduces a precursor to the Deep Ones.
  • The Statement of Randolph Carter (1920): The first appearance of the closest thing to a recurring protagonist Lovecraft ever created. Has one of HPL's two most familiar, quoted and/or mocked concluding lines.
  • The Cats of Ulthar (1920): HPL loved cats and he let it show. And they would show up again to play a major role in the events of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.
  • Celephais (1922): Prose poem.
  • From Beyond (1934): Short horror story of perception. Turned into a sort-of faithful movie.
  • Nyarlathotep (1920): Short prose poem/fragment about the Herald of the Great Old Ones from ancient Egypt to a briefly imagined dystopic future.
  • The Nameless City (1921): That would be the lost desert city of Irem, which also figures in the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • The Other Gods (1933): Whimsical bit of Dunsanian fabulism and cosmic relativism.
  • Ex Oblivione (1921): Prose poem.
  • The Quest of Iranon (1935): Dunsanian fable.
  • The Hound (1924): Fairly straightforward horror story features two decadents and an unusual-for-HPL setting of Amsterdam.
  • Hypnos (1922): As much a nod to Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" as it is a Dream-Cycle work.
  • What the Moon Brings (1922): Prose poem.
  • Pickman's Model  (1927): A straightforward horror story with elements that would be re-used in the Dream-Cycle short novel The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, written the same year but published 16 years later. Has one of HPL's two most familiar, quoted and/or mocked concluding lines.
  • The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1943): HPL's oddest long work combines the soporific with the startling. Randolph Carter stars.
  • The Silver Key (1929): Randolph Carter again, exploring the Dream-lands.
  • The Strange High House in the Mist (1931): Demon-haunted Kingsport makes an appearance, though it's positively normal compared to its representation in "the Festival."
  • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1943): Unpublished for years after its composition, this short novel gave us "essential salts" and Lovecraft's most fully realized antagonist, Joseph Curwen. Certain sections approach a parody of overused tropes.
  • The Dreams in the Witch-House (1933): Horror story has ties to both the Dream Cycle and to the Cthulhu Mythos. Somehow turned into soft-core-porn horror on TV anthology Masters of Horror.
  • Through the Gates of the Silver Key (1934) by H. P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price: Price and Lovecraft collaborate on a continuation of the story of Randolph Carter, for whom friends and relatives now search. A lengthy section on four-dimensional, non-linear space-time is nearly essential to understanding where Alan Moore is coming from in similar sections in his Lovecraft-inspired Neonomicon.

Overall: Certainly not as strong a collection as one of HPL's later-period work would be, but still extremely strong at points, and necessary for understanding him as a writer. Highly recommended.

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