The Call of Cthulhu and Other Stories by H. P. Lovecraft ed by Leslie S. Klinger
Liveright Classics, pb,
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Underappreciated during his lifetime, H. P. Lovecraft has inspired countless stories and has a strong following of diehard fans. This collection brings together a selection of Lovecraft’s work with accompanying notes putting the story in its original time and Lovecraft’s frame of mind while also explaining elements to a new reader.
The book starts with an introduction from Leslie S. Klinger, explaining Lovecraft the person, his upbringing and relationships, his obsession with mental health after both his parents died in an asylum, his fascination with astronomy, and his love of Providence, where he lived for most of his life. The introduction was great for a newcomer to Lovecraft’s work, as it helped me understand the stories a little better. Understanding an author’s inspiration helps unlock elements of the story that I might have overlooked otherwise.
I found the stories hit and miss. Writing styles have changed over time, and I found some of the openings quite long-winded with detailed descriptions of the story’s location, the area’s residents, then the people closest to the central character, and finally, the central character before the point of the story. This style worked well in The Colour Out of Space; however, in The Dunwich Horror, it kept me distanced from the story, possibly because it felt too long. There were nearly 30 pages of build-up to the ‘actual Dunwich horror’, which I personally found too much. I know others will disagree with me, but I couldn’t get past the length of the build-up.
I am a character-driven reader, so the stories I bought into were the ones that used the first-person perspective, even if that person was just gathering information from others. I think that is another reason why I preferred The Colour Out of Space over The Dunwich Horror, and my favourite from the collection was The Rats in the Walls.
Overall, whether I personally enjoyed the story or not, I was overawed at the complexity of the ideas and the theme of humanity being a small speck in the eye of creatures beyond our comprehension. I recognised where Lovecraft’s work inspired others that I am more familiar with, and I appreciated understanding the source material.
The annotations continued to open the story to me, explaining things that would have made sense to a contemporary reader that could confuse a modern one. Many focused on the geographical features such as rivers, towns, and buildings, which confused me. Maybe that is the difference between a casual reader and a true fan. I could accept these locations as part of the story without worrying about whether they really existed.
I believe this collection is a worthy addition to your library, whether this is the first time you’ve read Lovecraft or not, and Liveright Publishing has given us a discount code for British Fantasy Society review readers for money off at checkout. To order The Call of Cthulhu at a special member discount of 30%, please click here and add the code WN841 when prompted at the checkout.