Swords v Cthulhu. Book review

Swords v Cthulhu, Edited by Jesse Bullington & Molly Tanzer,

Stone Skin Press, 2016, p/b £8.99

Reviewed by Simon Ives

“Swift bladed action in the horrific world of H P Lovecraft” is how the cover describes this collection of twenty-two tales and that is exactly what you get as protagonists armed with something sharp take on the minions and monsters of the Cthulhu Mythos.

As with any short story collection, some are better written than others.  Overall, however, the standard is very high.  The editors have done a fine job.

The authors include some known to me and others who deserve further investigation.  Carrie Vaughan, for example, is a contributor to George R R Martin’s Wild Cards series and Michael Cisco has authored a number of novels.

Cisco’s tale, “Non Omnis Moriar”, takes an original Lovecraft story, “The Very Old Folk”, as its starting point.  It is set in the hills above Pompelo in the Pyrenees where a Roman cohort of some 300 men has mysteriously vanished.  Proprietor Marcus Foslius Felix is tasked with establishing what happened to them.

Vaughan’s offering is “The Lady of Shalott”, cleverly weaving the mythos into an Arthurian world and providing a nasty surprise for Lancelot.

Lovers of Fighting Fantasy or Tunnels and Trolls will relish the style of Orrin Grey’s “A Circle That Ever Returneth In”, even if the subject matter is somewhat darker than those adventures.  “Black Moon, Red Sails” by Andrew S Fuller is a swashbuckling tale set in Lovecraft’s Dreamlands while A Scott Glancy’s “The Trespassers” is a Kiplingesque story set in the Himalayas during the Great Game era.  Gurkhas, Cossacks and undead pygmies all feature.

The pick of the bunch for me, though, is “The Children of Yig” by John Hornor Jacobs.  Grislae is a young woman trying to establish herself as part of the crew of a Viking longship during a raid.  What she and her companions find, however, is a frighteningly clever combination of Jörmungandr, the Norse monster also known as the Midgard Serpent, and Yig, Lovecraft’s Father of Serpents.

Altogether a thoroughly enjoyable collection of tales that fantasy and Lovecraft fans alike will love.