on March 12, 2004
My original review for "The Transition of H.P. Lovecraft: The Road to Madness" was posted on January 10th 1999. The title and review was written as follows:
A true master of the macabre.
My only complaint about the writings of H.P. Lovecraft would be that many of his stories are of a similar nature and theme. Irregardless of this I found most of his stories to be extremely impressive works of fantasy and horror.
H.P. Lovecraft is a true past master. If you like anything that has ever dealt with horror, fantasy, or sci-fi, then you would be doing yourself a great disservice to not read a collection of Lovecraft stories at least once in your life.
I was very, very impressed by my first encounter with Lovecraft's work. I will read more of his material before my life is over.
End of original review.
I am very pleased with my original review and have re-reviewed it to properly put it under my correct name and Amazon.com identity.
The only thing new that I would like to add to this re-review would be this: the last story in this collection is called "At The Mountains of Madness." This story is hands down the best horror story I have ever read in my entire life. Nothing I have read since has equaled it, and nothing ever will. I consider it a profound pleasure that back in 1999 I read a horror story that will stand for the rest of my life as the greatest horror story I have ever read.
on December 28, 2003
Most people thinks that a man with a knife chasing teenagers is scary. This book proves them wrong! All of these stories were written back in the 1920s, but just because they're old doesn't mean they're not scary. His stories tell of civilizations that existed before man and creatures that drive people insane. They tell of aliens that have supernatural qualities and creatures that are really evil. His stories are almost believable. Some people actually believed his stories! I think it's because his ideas and writing are so perfect. You won't find a bad story in this book. It's worth the price.
on March 15, 2004
My first experience with Lovecraft was reading "The Lurking Fear" and "The Outsider". His descriptions, his prose, his gift for getting even the least creative reader inside his stories...it's pure genius. These tales are guaranteed to send a chill down your spine. Whether a fan of the genre or not, one cannot fal to appreciate his skill at vividly creating an aura of creepiness no other modern author has been able to duplicate.
on November 23, 2003
Literary theorists swear up and down to their youthful, naive charges that there are only three conflicts in fiction: Man versus Man, Man versus Nature, and Man versus Himself.
Providence recluse and Grandmaster of Horror H.P. Lovecraft, while proving handy at mastering all three of the aforementioned timeless old chestnuts, suggests there is a fourth category: Man versus Thing.
Any connoiseur of the frenzied scribblings of old Adbul Al-Hazred in the Necronomicon will find this second Del Rey collection indispensable as 1) a grimoire chock-full of searingly useful material on the recondite pursuits of those lovable, tentacled beings we know and love as the Elder Gods---mind your manners, sonny boy, they were devouring souls and mastering the Time-Space Quanitplex back when your ancestors were hobnobbing with euglena and paramecium; and 2)Scaring yourself silly.
Man versus Thing, indeed.
Lovecraft was a God among insects, a true literary Giant in the Earth, and the potent, vicious, soul-unhinging madness flowing from his deliciously warped mind is astonishing. Lovecraft took the great disillusionment that stemmed from the Great War and ratcheted it up to the next step, pounding the final nail in the coffin of scientific positivism, and his horror is Cosmic; therein lies his peculiar brilliance. Lovecraft is more than purpled prose and tentacles, in that he has created a world peopled with bloodless, bookish men of science and set them up against uncaring stellar horrors, leaving them with no appeal to God or Goodness. The crucifix won't help you against the horror bubbling out of *that* particular crypt, my good man!
In Lovecraftian fiction, Mankind thinks that by harnessing the marvels of science and high technology, He will improve himself and advance the cause and course of civilization.
Lovecraft knew better. In the Lovecraftian universe , Man is still a primitive, shambling neanderthal in trousers who lives in a dark, slimy, relatively unexplored cave. Science is a guttering tallow candle he holds before him in his trembling hand, throwing light on bulbous, slithering neighbors we had previously only dimly imagined.
And that's the *good* news. The bad news is that Man's newfound, eldritch buddies are now awfully interested in him. And hungry.
The supreme horror discovered by Lovecraftian heroes throughout the stories here---from the refugee from a German U-Boat in "The Temple", to the curious scholar who fumbles with a singularly wrong Device (shades of the Lament Configuration, possibly?), to the hapless spaceman trapped "In the Walls of Eryx"---all of them learn that Science is no friend, and Good and Evil are remote and relative terms on this tepid, livid blue-green orb hurled through cold and unblinkingly alien galaxies.
The stories collected in "The Road to Madness" offer a spyglass into Lovecraft's literary development, but that's less interesting than the gleefully ghoulish, elegant sliminess of some of the ghastly tales offered here like gemstones in the darkness: "Cool Air", "He" and "The Terrible Old Man" chronicle the dangers of befriending or robbing antique old gentlemen in Yankee alleys or Paris garrets; "The Unnameable" is a tasty little ghoul's kiss in a graveyard in which Lovecraft taunts the typical critical assessment of his prose style; "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" serves as a clever riff on the Strange Travelogue Tale, ghost-written for illusionist Harry Houdini.
But these tales, tasty as they are, are but molehills to the mountains offered up by the three jewels in this Lovecraftian crown. "At the Mountains of Madness" is surely Lovecraft's masterwork, chronicling forgotten horrors that threaten the sanity of an Arctic expedition---and possibly the world. "Herbert West: Re-animator" offers an epic account of what some good old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity and a syringe of corpse-reviving re-agent can accomplish. "The Horror at Red Hook", a jaunt into some of Brooklyn's seamier quarters, advances a sound argument for urban renewal if ever there was one.
Road to madness? Quite possibly. Road to soul-crushing terror and tentacled nightmares? Absolutely. Enjoy.
on May 10, 2003
"Transition", the third in a series of books documenting the complete range of HP Lovecraft's works, offers a prespective look at the author's earliest stories, and constrasts these with the pieces that would eventually seal his cult popularity. While many of the early pieces (with "The Beast in the Cave" being a notable exception) are hardly worth the read, this volume does contain a fair of amount of Lovecraft's more exceptional offerings. "At the Mountains of Madness", a short novel in itself, is a fantastic example of both horror and wonder found at the ends of the earth. "Arthur Jermyn", an indelible favorite, chronicles the lineage of one man's twisted family history, and finds a rotten apple on the family tree. "Cold Air", an unsually straight horror yarn about the apartment upstairs, gets ugly when the air conditioning suddenly goes on the brink. And of course, the infamous "Herbert West - Re-animator", where a power mad doctor is forced to reconcile the consequences of a legion of walking atrocities created by his own hands. 29 Stories are includced in this volume, but unfortunetly alot of the real spine tinglers (such as "Pickman's Model") were already compiled in the first two volumes of the series. LoveCraft's writing is at times more than a little thick, and the early 20th century cadence of the english requires time to digest, but worth it in the end. Unfortunately, his works are grotesuely racist and culturally xenophobic, but given the date these stories were written one must oblige to take it in with a grain of salt. Lovecraft's stories are not neccesarily for everyone, but those who like him tend to love him, and for those people, this book is a better than average compendium. On a side note, the illustrations, both on the cover and inside the book, are fantastic.
on August 25, 2001
This collection of stories by H.P. Lovecraft apparently was put together for hardcore collectors, but it does have many treasures for those who are just beginning to discover his work. The book begins with several "Early Tales" from Lovecraft's formative period. Some go as far back as his teenage years. In these early stories Lovecraft was still nailing down the style that would later become so influential. Unfortunately some of these tales aren't very good, especially the very predictable "The Beast in the Cave," and the others are high on stiff prose and low on ideas. So this early stuff is a real treasure for collectors but may be a struggle for everyone else. However, once you get over that hurdle, this book starts to pick up steam with a steady supply of fascinating and freaky tales of horror and the supernatural. As the title indicates, most of these short stories contain people going mad, and you may be wondering about your own sanity at the end. Highlights include the Frankenstein-style tales "Herbert West-Reanimator" and "Cool Air." My favorites appear toward the end of the book, with the sci-fi style "In the Walls of Eryx," in which Lovecraft shows a surprising flair for conceptual science fiction. The mini-novel "At the Mountains of Madness" may be Lovecraft's all-time best - a masterpiece of occult history that leaves you with a very spooky feeling afterwards. For those who are just discovering Lovecraft: while you're reading the stories, sometimes you'll find yourself struggling through his dense, slow-moving prose (which hardly ever contains dialogue), and his obscure references to the occult. But once you put the book down, and the stories work their way to the back of your mind, you'll start feeling creeped out. VERY creeped out.
on August 19, 2001
Many of Lovecraft's villains and heroes, which he so smoothly incorporates into his tales, are none other than scholars who are dangerously treading the realms of forbidden knowledge; and hence, desperately attempting to reveal the occult secrets derived from 'actual' hidden and historical documents of the past. He so cleverly weaves these yarns with both fact, fiction and legend, and mysteriously arrives at the ultimate conclusion that "yes, the world and its inhabitants are basically living in a totally unknown void of time and space, yet they are afraid to acknowledge it." One reading these gruesome short stories is left at the threshold of what is and what really may be. Most of these tales are earlier works written in his teens, but are nevertheless disclosing pieces of art prior to his becoming into one of the masters of horror - if not thee master. Mr. Lovecraft hinted at alot more than he outright stated in his writings, and many firmly believe he was either onto something or most likely, something was onto him, which very well may have drove him to the road to madness and to ultimately persuade him to produce the 29 chilling tales of horror encapsuled within this book. GET THESE!!
on January 25, 1997
Howard Phillips Lovecraft ... a writer who has been granted both respect and contempt over the decades, the founder of a school of purple prose-laden horror that has, despite critical approbation, not only survived but thrived in book and cinematic form. New devotees join the cadre of writers who have continued various aspects of Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, and Lovecraft himself has had a cinematic avatar in two made-for-cable alternate universe movies, and never mind the rock band named after the man himself (or the growing collection of music based on or inspired by his work.)
Del Rey have been releasing a series of Lovecraft collections in trade paperback, each one with a new introduction and a handful of macabre illustrations. This volume is set up as something of an overview, hence the title, and features not only well-known tales such as "At The Mountains Of Madness" but a selection of early (and more derivative) pieces, a poem that reads like congealed Coleridge, and several collaborations, including a notable adventure produced with the aid of Harry Houdini and a science fiction tale that takes a horrific turn.
The Transition Of H.P. Lovecraft makes a fair introduction to Lovecraft's entire body of writing, but if the mythos is more of interest, then the better choice would likely be the earlier The Dream Cycle Of H.P Lovecraft, though "At The Mountains Of Madness" and "Herbert West - Reanimator" should not be missed.
on April 5, 2000
I was really enjoying this collection before I came to the story "The Street". I had to stop and re-read the story several times because I didn't want to believe what I was reading. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems to be a horror story about what happens when a "swarthy" (psuedo Jewish) element takes over a neighborhood, sneakily encouraging "besotted beasts" (psuedo African-Americans) to go on burning, slaying, and destroying the land of "our fathers" (psuedo caucasians)...
I used to love H.P. I understand the fact that just because he writes about monsters doesn't necessarily mean he believes in monsters. But, I can't help getting the impression that he was definitely a racist. He seems to be irresponsibly exploiting some very prejudiced fears. Somebody tell me I'm getting this story wrong. Otherwise, I won't ever be able to read another H.P. story.
on July 2, 2001
The works of H.P. Lovecraft loom like a shadow over today's modern horror fiction. His brilliance forshadowed the likes of Stephen King, Clive Barker and many others. The works here in "The Road to Madness" only reinforce this fact. Included is the outstanding "Herbert West: Re-Animator." Lovecraft was a master of the realistic setting which makes the eruption of the irrational that much more unnerving. Indeed, when Lovecraft is at his best -- no one can touch him. At an early age, Lovecraft rejected religious belief and came to adopt a nihilistic philosophy where humans have no importance in the cosmos but to serve as the playthings of incomprehensible and uncaring forces. Lovecraft was indeed racist as well; one can find sinister Africans and wicked Jews amongst his writing. Only the politically corrected will run away from this. The rest of us will enjoy his work.