Book review: The Book of Cthulhu

The Book of CthulhuThe Book of Cthulhu edited by Ross E. Lockhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A surprisingly meaty (and slimy/bloody/gooey) collection of stories using Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Horror anthologies are notoriously uneven in my experience so I was pleasantly surprised at how solid this anthology is. While there is no singular standout story here there are also no outright clunkers that I was tempted to flip past. The weakest efforts are probably those that attempt to mimic Lovecraft’s actual writing style, like Brian Lumley’s “The Fairground Horror”. People probably shouldn’t do this.

The highlights include Laird Barron’s “The Men from Porlock”. While I found his style a bit ponderous at times in his own collection, his concluding story set post-World War I is wonderfully weird, gruesome and filled with men who curse like lumberjacks because they are, in fact, lumberjacks.

Charles Stross imagines weaponizing Cthulhu in “A Colder war” and the results are appropriately horrifying, while Elizabeth Bear’s “Shoggoths in Bloom” takes a quieter, science-focused approach to Lovecraft’s horrors that makes them almost cute. Almost.

Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Crawling Sky” features a sharpshooting preacher out to battle evil Old Testament-style. The speech and manner of the preacher reminded me (favorably) of The Dark Tower’s Roland.

The remaining stories cover time periods ranging from the early 20th century to the present day and shift in tone from not-quite-outright comedy to relentlessly grim, with a few detours into “What the hell is happening?” territory. There’s really something for everyone here, especially if you like faces filled with writhing tentacles or hair that is actually wriggling sentient worms.

Highly recommended.

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