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Book Review: “Shadows Over Innsmouth” By H.P. Lovecraft And Others

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  • Written By: H.P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, Brian Lumley, Kim Newman, Ramsey Campbell, D.F. Lewis, Basil Copper, Jack Yeovil, Guy N. Smith, Adrian Cole, David A. Sutton, Peter Tremayne, Brian Mooney, Brian Stableford, Nicholas Royle, David Langford, Michael Marshall Smith
  • Publisher: Titan Books
  • Edited By: Stephen Jones

Book Review: “Shadows Over Innsmouth” By H.P. Lovecraft And Others

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Stephen Jones might be the premier anthologist in the horror and fantasy game today, and he knows his H.P. Lovecraft, having edited several different collections and garnering three World Fantasy Awards and four Bram Stoker awards. He isn’t slipping any time soon, as SHADOWS OVER INNSMOUTH is another unsettling, quirky collection of short stories from some of the finest horror and sci-fi writers.

The book opens with a stellar introduction from editor Jones, entitled “Spawn of the Deep Ones,” which manages to say a lot about H.P. Lovecraft, and how “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” almost never came to be, in just 4 pages.

What set Lovecraft apart, aside from his pungent, prickly, brilliant prose and his penchant for the macabre, was that the man wanted other writers to dabble in the elaborate and unseemly playground he created, to add or develop the Cthulhu Mythos in their own work. This has been a tradition since Lovecraft first saw his works published in WEIRD TALES and ASTOUNDING STORIES, propagated by Lovecraft’s successor, historian, and champion August Derleth. That tradition remains live and well even in 2013, as evidenced by this sterling collection of horror.

The anthology opens with one of the stories that started it all, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” Lovecraft’s classic tale that reintroduced Innsmouth, Obed Marsh, and the gnawing unrest felt by outsiders when they happen upon that ghastly ghost town positioned as the most curious of Massachusetts’ seaports. The tale, seeped in terror, teeming with paranoia (and yes, prejudice), is narrated by a young traveler searching for answers as to the town’s ugly reputation, and predictably finds more than he bargained for.

From there, Britain’s best and brightest romp around in Lovecraft’s sandbox, with some fantastic results. Jack Yeovil finds parallels between Raymond Chandler and H.P. Lovecraft in “The Big Fish.” D.F. Lewis’ “Down to the Boots” is a depressing tale of an Innsmouth housewife, if you can imagine such a thing, as she cleans up after her husband’s watery rite of passage, a task as unending as her suffering.

Perhaps the most curious of all is Neil Gaiman’s “Only the End of the World Again,” a story that places Lawrence Talbot (yes, that Lawrence Talbot) in Innsmouth on the day the Elder Gods will rise up. Talbot quickly finds himself as unwelcome in Innsmouth as any place else. It’s one of the more idiosyncratic entries, but is worth it for this following description of an Innsmouth resident: “He looked a little like Peter Lorre, but then, most of the folk in Innsmouth look a little like Peter Lorre, including my landlady.” And yes, poor Talbot is still depressed: “I hate Innsmouth: it’s no place to be alone, but if there’s a good place to be alone I’ve not found it yet.” Wise words from the immortal Neil Gaiman, who begs no introduction at this point.

Bram Stoker Award-winning author Kim Newman (ANNO DRACULA) presents a weird little missive about a Miskatonic University student working the graveyard shift at a 24 hour diner in “A Quarter To Three,” or how I like to call it: Innsmouth’s Jukebox Diner Blues. Complete with pregnant teenagers and Rosemary Clooney references!

My favorite tale might be Lovecraftian acolyte Ramsey Campbell’s noxious tale “The Church In High Street,” that manages to mirror Lovecraftian’s style and structure nigh perfectly, with some wonderfully erudite and illuminating turns of phrase. Campbell brings the Cthulhu mythos to England, as Richard Dodd investigates his friend’s disappearance in Temphill, a disturbing town in the Cotswold’s. It highlights the cycle of insanity often seen in Lovecraft’s work, and the enduring allure of the strange, as the pull of the supernatural is as unrelenting as a tractor beam. The story truly shines when Dodd ventures into the abyss-like depths of the Eldritch Church and Campbell gets to unleash description, leading Dodd to exclaim: “Would that a merciful oblivion could wipe away forever what I saw there!” and the readers never forgetting them.

The anthology is further bolstered with additions by the likes of Basil Copper, Guy N. Smith, Adrian Cole, David A. Sutton, Peter Tremayne, Brian Mooney, Brian Stableford, Nicholas Royle, David Langford, Michael Marshall Smith, and NECROSCOPE author Brian Lumley. The bow on top of it all is the talented art team of Dave Carson, Martin McKenna and Jim Pitts, who supply stellar Lovecraftian sketches before and after each ghoulish tale.

This collection is further evidence that while H.P. Lovecraft and his body of work has crafted an immense shadow that cloaks the rest of the sci-fi and fantasy realm in darkness, it’s a shadow that’s exceedingly fun, rich, and inspiring to get stuck in, and will be forever more.

Snag your copy of Titan Books’ SHADOWS OVER INNSMOUTH today on Amazon for just $11.65.

Now you can pair SHADOWS OVER INNSMOUTH with its follow up, WEIRD SHADOWS OVER INNSMOUTH, also edited by Stephen Jones, featuring contributions from Kim Newman, Paul McAuley, Richard A. Lupoff, Basil Copper, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Ramsey Campbell.

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