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The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre

The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre - H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, Robert Bloch
“Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn”
Try saying that backward (or forward, which is equally challenging).

H.P. Lovecraft is definitely the granddaddy of “Cosmic Horror” and Weird Fiction. He is often mentioned in science fiction / fantasy / horror related websites and forums, not to mention myriad other kinds of websites. Reading fans raving about his works and seeing the numerous fan arts online make many of us genre fiction enthusiasts want to start getting into his fiction to see what the fuss is all about. I suspect a lot of first-time readers of Lovecraft are disappointed at what they find. The way he goes about telling his stories is very idiosyncratic, he has a tendency to overwrite and be highly verbose. This can be very disappointing and off-putting if you choose the wrong story to start with and you were expecting a quick thrilling read.

This is where the unwieldy titled The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre comes in. This is a “greatest hits” type of anthology which is ideal for the uninitiated and of course fans who want their favorite stories all in one book. It does not include the novellas [b:At the Mountains of Madness|32767|At the Mountains of Madness|H.P. Lovecraft|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388341769s/32767.jpg|17342821] and [b:The Case of Charles Dexter Ward|129327|The Case of Charles Dexter Ward|H.P. Lovecraft|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1385837737s/129327.jpg|124552], which is just as well as these are not so suitable starting places. I think it is better to get used to (and forgive) the author’s verbiage and appreciate the otherwise awesomeness of his stories.

A lot of the stories tend to be supernatural / sci-fi hybrids with witches and wizards summoning aliens from another planet or dimension by magic. Here is my quick run-through of the stories in this collection:

Introduction by [a:Robert Bloch|12540|Robert Bloch|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1208225228p2/12540.jpg] - Best known for [b:Psycho|156427|Psycho|Robert Bloch|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1393286878s/156427.jpg|3279468], one of his protégés. A good intro to Lovecraft the man and his fiction. Don’t skip it.

The Rats in the Walls - As your very first Lovecraft story his convoluted prose style may take a while to get used to. The climax is spectacular but also a bit of a mess in the narrative department. The story is great though, worth a reread later on.

The Picture in the House - The book that drips blood; where the useless protagonist runs away just when things are heating up to a critical point, next time stay at home old chap! Nice, short and atmospheric though.

The Outsider - A story of self-discovery. Great twist at the end. Awesome in a most eldritch way.

Pickman’s Model - You are in for a treat with this one. Classic Lovecraft, one of his most popular and enduring stories. The colloquial writing style is rather unusual for Lovecraft I think. Possibly his most accessible story and a great starting point for new readers.

In the Vault - Break a leg! An amusing and rather inconsequential little story.

The Silver Key - Time traveling shenanigan featuring some Lovecraft’s patented awful faux-hillbilly dialog. A Twilight Zone-ish story.

The Music of Erich Zann - Featuring a man who is attracted by weird music. Next time just buy a Yoko Ono album. Actually one of HPL’s most popular stories. Doesn’t really do much for me, unfortunately. The bloody protagonist does a runner again just when things are getting interesting.

The Call of Cthulhu - The narrative is a little fragmented and the story is rather incohesive, but there is some tremendous world building going on in this story. The creepy atmosphere is very well done and for once the monster actually shows up in all its glory (HPL’s monsters generally prefer to lurk and mess with your head). This story is also often cited as evidence of his racism. According to [a:Robert Bloch|12540|Robert Bloch|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1208225228p2/12540.jpg] Lovecraft did become more mellow and tolerant of foreigners after marriage.

The Dunwich Horror - This is what newcomers to Lovecraft are probably looking for. A great, thrilling and creepy tale. That Wilbur Whateley reminds me of Damian in the Omen movies a bit to begin with. He changes later on though (not for the better of course)

The Whisperer in Darkness - Gives new meaning to “the Kodak moment”, talk about product placement! A very creepy story featuring weird floating monstrosities and a whispery ET.

The Colour Out of Space - This! Ladies and gentlemen. This! Lovecraft’s best story (IMO). For a change, the story is pure sci-fi, no chanting monks, witches, voodoo or Cthulhu. The poor Gardners’ family literal disintegration thanks to a meteor falling on their farm will surely give you the heebie-jeebies.

The Haunter of the Dark - Set in Italy. The story of a weird black church. If you spot a copy of the Necronomicon by “Mad Arab” Abdul Alhazred in a church head for the exit immediately.

The Thing on the Doorstep - This also! What a great body swap story, much better than Freaky Friday. Featuring the eponymous Thing on the Doorstep whose catchphrase is “Glub!”. Brrrr!

The Shadow Over Innsmouth - Oh my Gawd! A blasphemously amazing story of some very fishy folks. Set mainly in the creepiest town ever. Featuring a very cool twist.

The Dreams in the Witch-House Featuring a witch, a rat with a man’s face and a sort of hyperspace bypass. The narrative is a little rambling for my taste, but a great story is embedded in there.

The Shadow Out of Time - Another story of involuntary body swap. The Great Race aliens are almost benign by HPL’s standard, unauthorized body swap notwithstanding. It is a longish story (70 pages or so), it starts off very fascinating, but Lovecraft goes into his rambling mode in the second half of the story. An example of his overwriting. Still a great story though, one that will stay with you.

Due to his verbiage, thin characters and appalling dialogs Lovecraft’s dissenters often dismiss him as a bad writer. If so he is the most excellent bad writer of all time. The thing about his writing is that while some of the stories will have you nodding off while wading through the long winded prose, but once you get to the end of the stories you realize that they are actually quite good. Also when he is on top form, such as in The Colour Out of Space where the narrative is very evocative and the story is just right, he is unbeatable.

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Notes:

The website Cthulhuchick has kindly put together a free e-book of the Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft in several formats. The download link is on the main front page.

You can read any and all of Lovecraft's stories online at Dagonbytes.

Download links for free Lovecraft audiobooks.