Monday, January 18, 2010

The Lovecraft Necronomicon Primer by T Allan Bilstad

First published in October of 2009.

Meet the creatures of the Cthulhu Mythos. Denizens of the dark but brilliant imagination of HP Lovecraft. The collection of horror and fantasy he penned during his short lifetime is a legacy that has terrified and inspired generations of fans. Lovecraft's tales reveal the horror of seeing what has been hidden from humanity for good reason.

Written for those curious about Lovecraft and his work, this illustrated guide presents detailed descriptions of twenty-nine of the monsters, creatures, and gods that inhabit Lovecraft's macabre fictional universe, without any spoilers that could ruin a future read of his stories. It also includes an introduction to the man regarded as the father of American horror.
(book back blurb)

As someone that has never read any of Lovecraft's work (bad horror fan, bad), this book was a perfect fit for me. I knew about the Mythos, or I should say I knew of it. I've heard of the Necronomicon but I had no idea it was written by Lovecraft. People were afraid of it when I was growing up. I remember my friend buying it and her mom, literally, tore it up and torched it. Little did I know it was spawned from the demented mind of a solitary writer.

The only thing that irked me a little bit was the voice of the author. At times he tried to reiterate the horror that these creatures incited by using repetition to kind of drive the point home. I think that's something that would work if spoken but written, I think, it just kind of stumbles along awkwardly. And when it's done multiple times throughout the book, it just kind of annoyed me. I'm pretty sure that was the whole kitsch of the book, kind of like an older time story telling but repeating something doesn't hit home the scary for me, especially if what's being said in and of itself isn't scary. The author was prone to doing it every time he felt the need to drive a particularly horrifying point home, which was a lot. I could have lived without that. The creatures and the world spoke for themselves.

Other than that, it was a fascinating look into the world of Lovecraft. Boy was that guy demented. You know, I think everyone can have a vivid imagination but only someone with true creativity can turn a vivid imagination into a bonafide world that can scare the crap out of you. I actually started to believe some of the Mythos as it was being told to me. The connections made between the real world and this supposed imagination were eerily real and made me question that perhaps Lovecraft knew something we didn't.

I'm not a religious person so I believe that the Bible is nothing more than a long-standing story book written by a bunch of guys a couple thousand ago. They just happened to be convincing enough (or forceful enough) in their tellings that people started to take these stories as fact, as sacrosanct. As holy. L Ron Hubbard succeeded in doing the same thing with his science fiction novels. A modern day writer succeeded in telling a convincing enough story for people to believe that what he was saying was actually true. I don't see much difference between Mr. Hubbard and the authors that wrote the Bible. In that same vein, who's to say Lovecraft wasn't on to something?

What I've read in this book and how the author is so convincing in his descriptions of these creatures, on how they function, how they act, what they're planning that who's to say Cthulhu isn't waiting under the ocean with the giant squids until the alignment of 2012 to rise and kill us all? Sounds kind of ludicrous, but so does a guy walking on water and feeding a mass of people with fleshy bread.

My point is, the realism with which these creatures are talked about, how they're related to our waking and dreaming worlds, makes them that much more terrifying. Sure, as they stand alone they're pretty creepy. Who wouldn't shy away from something with a face full of tentacles? But it's not the creatures themselves that are terrifying but the horrifyingly realistic world they could live in that is. What if . . .

If anything, aside from making me sleep a little lighter, the book's made me want to read Lovecraft like an addict seeking heroin. He's always been on my radar as a horror writer. I've just never actually gotten to him. And I want to start with The Dunwich Horror. The author wouldn't even talk about what that was. As if that would keep me away from finding out about it! I started watching the TV movie version on Syfy but that didn't amount to much more than Gouda. I want the real thing. I want the horror story.

So, if you're a Lovecraft virgin and are interested in finding out just what he's all about before diving headfirst into his terrifying world, then be sure to pick up this book. It's an excellent sampling of his creatures. Just enough to equally entice and scare you, but not enough to keep you away from reading them. Just read with with the light on. Most of Lovecraft's creatures are dark dwellers and I wouldn't want you to accidentally conjure one or anything. That wouldn't be good.


Simon said...

I might pick this up, cimply because I love Lovecraft.

Jennifer G. said...

Great review!

Lovecraft showed up on my radar after I read Stephen King's short story, "N" and then again after reading a Neil Gaiman short story. I might get brave enough to try him one day!

brizmus said...

I am totally a Lovecraft version, though I've always wanted to read him. His crazy, demented life sounds awesome! I totally need to read this!

Donna said...

Yeah, I definitely need to get my hands on some of his work!

April said...

Lovecraft is pretty scary, but a fine writer. His writing isn't exactly a fast read like Stephen King but certainly worth your time if you want to be creeped out. I have Dreams of Terror and Death by Lovecraft which I find to be a decent primer in his work, you might like that one! :-)

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