Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book Review: The Call of Cthulhu, by H. P. Lovecraft

Title:  The Call of Cthulhu
Author:  H. P. Lovecraft
Genre:  Horror
Rating: 4 out of 5

The Call of Cthulhu is one of H. P. Lovecraft's most popular works.  It features his most iconic creature of horror, and is the cornerstone of his entire mythos.  Let's uncover the terrifying madness contained within...

Cthulhu is written in the form of an old journal of a man named Francis Thurston.  After his great uncle's death, Francis discovers that he has come to inherit a body of work that attempts to piece together mysteries surrounding mass hysteria and violent cults.  Together with this information and his own investigation, Thurston describes the unspeakable horror that he uncovers.

The story is broken up into three parts.  Part One, The Horror In Clay, relates how Thurston's uncle investigates a period of a few weeks in which people began having horrific dreams of a slime-covered city rising out of the ocean.  Part Two, The Tale Of Inspector Lagrasse, is a second-hand tale of a police inspector's raid of a cult in the swamps around New Orleans.  The cultists worship a creature similar to the one seen by the troubled dreamers.  Part Three, The Madness From The Sea, is an interview with the widow of a man driven insane by what he saw while sailing on the ocean.

The Call of Cthulhu, like many other stories written by H. P. Lovecraft, works on the basis of plausible deniability. The story is told in such a way that the events that occur go unnoticed by the world.  A single character - in this case, Francis Thurston - stumbles upon cosmic mysteries of the universe before fading into obscurity.  The facts that might destroy the world if they got out are simply re-buried.  The world spins and humanity lives on unaware of the horrors that lurk under the surface.

That is what is so tragic about The Call of Cthulhu.  We, as the reader, are treated to the darkness within the world and then watch it slip through the cracks of common knowledge.  This dynamic adds ample tension to the story.  As Thurston stumbles upon each piece of the puzzle, it is both exciting and heartbreaking.

As a standalone tale, it is difficult to give this story an outstanding rating.  The characters aren't the most vivid, and not much happens until the very end of it.  However, I believe that the value of Lovecraft's work is much greater than the sum of its parts.  When considered as part of the whole, The Call of Cthulhu truly shines.  If you have any interest in Lovecraft, you would not be remiss to start here!

4 out of 5 tentacles!

This review is a part of Dueling Monsters 2011

1 comment:

  1. I've only ever read one other of his stories, so that might explain why I was less than impressed!