The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft by Aaron J. French (ed.)
An Above-Average Cthulhu Mythos Anthology
(I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)
So... what we have here is an anthology of a dozen short stories by various authors, all set (more or less) in the shared universe created by the American writer H.P. Lovecraft and various literary friends of his that has come to be known as the "Cthulhu Mythos". Each story is keyed to a particular entity (the "gods" of the title) in said universe. Additionally, there is a brief description of each entity by writer Donald Tyson, as well as black-and-white illustrations (mostly quite good) by various artists.
How are the stories? For the most part, they're pretty good, too. The only outright clunker, in this reviewer's humble opinion, is Martha Wells' "The Dark Gates", which apparently ties into an ongoing series of her own. If you're already a fan of her work, it's probably perfectly acceptable, but as I knew nothing about the universe it was set it, it mostly left me feeling unpleasantly bemused. On the other hand, the very next tale in the collection, "We Smoke the Northern Lights" by the gifted Laird Barron, is probably the most hugely entertaining story I've come across in recent memory in this or any other genre. My friend Randy Stafford informs me that this story comprises half of Barron's new novella X's For Eyes; as soon as I'm done writing this review, I'm gonna purchase myself a copy.
Should you buy this book? If you're completely new to this type of writing, frankly, no. I would say your time is much better spent familiarizing yourself with the work of Lovecraft himself and his friends (Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long, etc.) who created the Mythos universe. If you're already familiar with these writers and want to get to know the work of with contemporary writers working in this tradition, you could do better than this collection (Darrell Schweitzer's profoundly disturbing post-apocalyptic-themed Mythos collection Cthulhu's Reign springs to mind as an example). Having said that, and considering the large amount of dreck that out there in this sub-genre and the unusually consistency of this anthology, you could also do a whole hell of a lot worse.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
H.P. Lovecraft, 1934 (source)