While H.P. Lovecraft himself encouraged other authors to expand his horrific universe with stories of their own, the Cthulhu mythos has spawned so many slavish imitators that it tends not to seem so scary these days. Editors John Pelan and Benjamin Adams seek to remedy that with The Children of Cthulhu
, an anthology of 21 stories by modern macabre masters. Contributors were asked to avoid trotting out old Lovecraftian clichés and instead to write stories that bring the true horror of Cthulhu right into the modern world. The results are mostly terrific. Offerings from Poppy Z. Brite ("Are You Loathsome Tonight?"), Caitlín R. Kiernan ("Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea"), China Miéville ("Details"), and L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims ("A Victorian Pot Dresser") are the best of the bunch. Many of the stories are reminiscent of the Vertigo
line of DC Comics, with dark, urban settings and gross-out violence, so the book is more likely to appeal to readers of contemporary horror than to fans of classic Lovecraft. --Therese Littleton
From Publishers Weekly
If the 23 contributors to this uneven anthology avoid the obvious Cthulhu Mythos clichs, none comes close to emulating Lovecraft's trademark cosmic horror. Typical is the two editors' collaborative "That's the Story of My Life." Set in Arkham with "its aged, gambrel-roofed neighborhoods," this brisk tale relies for its effect on a twist out of Damon Knight, not on any Lovecraftian atmosphere. Richard Laymon's "The Cabin in the Woods," a tribute to H.P.L.'s "The Whisperer in Darkness," shares a rural Vermont setting, but its action-oriented, dialogue-laden plot is the antithesis of the master's. "A Victorian Pot Dresser," by L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims, in which an old piece of furniture hungers for sacrificial virgins, seems to be inspired by Lovecraft at his more ludicrous. The better stories deal with the Lovecraftian theme of outsideness, in particular Poppy Z. Brite's grotesque portrait of Elvis Presley's last days, "Are You Loathsome Tonight?" (the book's one reprint). Steve Rasnic Tem's homage to "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," "Outside," with its aquatic horror and decayed seaport, nicely evokes some of the brooding menace of Lovecraft's classic tale. And Caitl¡n R. Kiernan, in her stylish "Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea," does a turn on the lure of oceanic terrors with a bow to Lewis Carroll. To be preferred to most Lovecraft imitations, these 21 tales will likely please mainstream horror fans more than H.P.L. purists. Agent, Jennifer Jackson at Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Jan. 2)Forecast: Like the amphibious Deep Ones who threaten to expand beyond Innsmouth, Lovecraft-inspired fiction is starting to invade the genre mainstream. If this and similar anthologies take a beating in the larger marketplace, expect a hasty retreat into the shadowy recesses of the small press realm.
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