Tuesday, July 12, 2016

At the Mountains of Madness - H. P. Lovecraft

At the Mountains of MadnessAt the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

October 2005
My rating: 2 of 5 stars (5/10)

I first really encountered the whole concept of Lovecraft's Mythos (something I remain unclear on, so please excuse any mistakes) while reading a BBC Eight Doctor Doctor Who novel, which I guess is kind of backwards. From there I was interested in finding about a bit more about it, but it all seemed to be very confusing and I didn't know where to begin or how much I really wanted to do so. When this was one of [BeyondReality]'s October selections, it seemed providential. It took me while to get hold of the book, eventually finding a copy online.

The story itself is fairly basic. A geologist, one of a small number of survivors of an ill-fated expedition to Antartica in 1930, finally reveals the true horrors discovered there in order to dissuade a new expedition from following in his footsteps.

So what did I think of it?

Well, in all honesty the writing is pretty mediocre. It's lurid and rambling and the vague hints that are supposed to build suspense, I found annoying. For all that though, I keep reading. I kept thinking of giving up, but there was something compelling about the story that kept me going. I found the beginning very slow, but it smoothed out and picked up in the second half before petering out into a somewhat unsatisfying ending.

I have to say that I didn't find this in the least scary; the writing was too clinical for that as it didn't stir any emotions. Also, especially in the first half, there was lots and lots of description, especially through Lake's reports. I am not at all a visual person, so it was just words to me and I wasn't building up any picture of these creastures. That may have diminished the impact. Where I did feel my emotions was being tugged was as the narrator makes his conclusions about what must have happened to the Old Ones who believed they were returning home and his guesses at their feelings about that.

All in all, this is very much a "tell, don't show" story, and as a modern reader, I tend to prefer the opposite. I often feel when things are hinted at and events described obliquely that I've missed a lot, but in this case I did feel I'd got most of the details I was supposed to by the end. Although I'm still not clear about what kind of creature was chasing Danforth and the narrator as their fled back up the tunnels from the abyss. If anyone can enlighten me, I'd be grateful.

If you want a taste of Lovecraft to see what all the fuss is about - as I did - I do think this is a good story to try. It turned out not to be my thing, but it might be yours.

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