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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Road to Madness
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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.
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on February 5, 2003
lovecraft's work, perhaps more so than any other writer of his time or any other time, reflects the horror at the center of existence and the unseen forces which work to disrupt our rational, everyday lives. lovecraft certainly surpasses king, koontz, et al. his only modern equal is thomas ligotti. "the statement of randolph carter" is the best story, and perhaps his most philosophical: nothing can be known, and the human will is destined to fail or end in madness. lovecraft may have been ugly, but he could write. read it.
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on November 9, 2003
Here you have it! The lot of the H.P. Lovecraft stories that were later adapted into horror films. As such, it is the most interesting of the series of 3 books by Del Ray. The movies were liberal adaptions, as the stories were short and left most to the imagination. This book in particular is key to horror fans; no collector or afficienado should be without this. You will be a lot better person after reading this than before. Sit back and enjoy.
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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'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.
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on February 28, 1998
This book has some enjoyable stories in it and I liked the poem. However, the tales with the greatest interest are "The White Ship" and "The Tree". Both of them show that when he took himself seriously, Lovecraft was a truly great short story writer.
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on January 28, 2000
I heard about HP Lovecraft a little while ago, but never read any of his works until about a month ago when I bought the Best Of collection from Del Rey. I loved it, so I bought this book after getting through most of the first one. After reading The Beast in the Cave, I was hooked on this too.
The best thing about Lovecraft's storytelling is the way he describes things so vividly, and yet leaves a lot to your own imagination. Although he can drag on at times, the stories always come together in the end. One of my favorites is Dagon, with an incredible introduction and conclusion. My personal favorite was probably Memory. It was one page, and it gives you just a taste of Lovecraft's brilliant imagination.
One last note: the cover on this book is incredible. John Jude Palencar is a great artist.
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on August 30, 2000
As an avid reader of Lovecraft's Macabre, I couldn't resist picking up this book and the other two in the series (The Best of H.P. Lovecraft, and The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft). And it turned out to be a great addition to my library. The starring attraction is At The Mountains of Madness, which automatically makes the book worth the meager cost. One of the nice things about this collection is that it traces some of the early themes in Lovecraft's work to their later maturity. Although the stories are quite varied, you needn't worry about them straying from Lovecraft's trademark theme: cosmic ignorance is a wonderful commodity. I highly recommend this to addicts and newcomers alike.
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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 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.
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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.
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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.
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