Monday, 31 July 2017

Review: 'The Zombie Stories of H.P. Lovecraft' by H.P. Lovecraft

Despite my love for the occult and the horrifying, I have managed to spend twenty-three years on this planet without reading a single Lovecraftian word. I know, it's not an accomplishment to be very proud of but alas, such is my life. However, thanks to Dover Publications I have rectified this grievous error and am now officially on the path of becoming slightly obsessed with Lovecraft and his world. Thanks to Dove Publications and Netgalley for providing me with an edition of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 16/09/2015
Publisher: Dover Publications
Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, and other experts on horror fiction deem H. P. Lovecraft the master teller of weird tales. These six chilling stories ― all published between 1921 and 1933 ― offer compelling journeys into the land of the undead. 
The collection begins with "The Outsider," the tale of a recluse whose overwhelming loneliness emboldens him to seek out human contact. Subsequent stories include "Herbert West―Reanimator," written as a satire of Frankenstein and used as the source for a popular horror film; "In the Vault," in which an undertaker experiences supernatural revenge; "Cool Air," an account of a doctor's fanatical obsession with defying death; and "Pickman's Model," focusing on an artist's gallery of nightmares. "The Thing on the Doorstep" concludes the compilation with the compelling tale of a man whose body is preyed upon by a spirit that refuses to die.
Aah, what is better than being frightened out of your mind while actually sitting cosily on your own sofa? That is exactly the experience that The Zombie Stories of H.P. Lovecraft will give you! As I said above, I never read any H.P. Lovecraft until now. I had, of course, heard of him and of something called Cthulhu but I wasn't entirely sure what it was all about. Reading The Zombie Stories of H.P. Lovecraft became another one of those 'smacking myself in the face' moments as I realised I could have been reading and enjoying Lovecraft all along. For me, his stories completely live up to his hype. He crafts a world so dark and terrifying, and yet so human and real, that it's almost impossible that he all made it up himself. Like the best fiction, Lovecraft takes you out of your own world so soundly that you bring some of it back with you when you return to reality.

The Zombie Stories of H.P. Lovecraft features six stories: 'The Outsider;, 'Herbert West - Reanimator', 'In the Vault', 'Cool Air', 'Pickman's Model' and 'The Thing on the Doorstep'. The latter, 'The Thing on the Doorstep' is probably my favourite since it actually features a female character, but is also the one that most deeply delves into the mystical and occult aspects of Lovecraft's world. I kept looking up places and names only to realise that they were all his creation. All these stories share the common theme of being "zombie stories", more on that below, so their twist doesn't necessarily come with a lot of surprise. As such, extra credit is due to Lovecraft that even when knowing the nature of his tale, it can still terrify and surprise you. Nowadays a lot of horror and thriller films are very "realistic", they try to scare you with things that are a part of your every day life and that you can grasp, even if they veer into the supernatural. For Lovecraft, horror is cosmic, in the sense that the human mind cannot grasp life and that the true meaning of the universe is alien to us. As such, his protagonists either venture into dark places and return utterly changed or hold so hard to their idea of reality that they lose their own sanity. And this, in my eyes, is was scarier than what the cinema offers us nowadays because it is also way more enticing.

Lovecraft's writing really doesn't need to be praised by me but I'm going to do it anyway. He really knows how to suck you into a story straightaway, his first person narration often addressing the reader head on as if you were having a conversation with his protagonist. Lovecraft's stories are that stunning modern Gothic style which takes Poe's morbidity and combines it with the dramatics of Ann Radcliffe's The Monk and the spirituality of mystical medieval texts. His language is effervescent in a way that feels smooth and rich, and you're always aware that there is so much more he could tell you than just this story. I do have to say I'm not entirely pleased with the title of this collection. Perhaps it is because I have grown up with a popular culture in which zombies abound, whether it's in a gruesome TV show or a romcom, but Lovecraft's creations feel very different to me. The creatures in 'Herbert West - Reanimator' are the only ones who truly meet the 'created by a medical experiment gone horribly wrong'-bar, and, as the blurb above says, it's more of a response to Frankenstein than anything else. Although I won't deny modern day representations of zombies have found their inspiration in Lovecraft, I feel like the term doesn't apply to his creatures. Call me particular, but I also get upset when people call Frankenstein's Creature a monster. This will have to be another pet peeve of mine.Title aside, however, this is a delightfully horrific collection of tales that will thrill any horror fan!

I give this collection...

4 Universes!

Whether you read a story at a time or, like me, become so fascinated you can't put the book down, The Zombie Stories of H.P.Lovecraft are a must read for any horror fan. I'd especially recommend it if you're also new to Lovecraft since it gives you a great taste of his style without plunging you too deeply into his world.

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