H.P. Lovecraft - The Call of Cthulhu. PDF

PDF This here, folks, is the most impressive image of Cthulhu that I’ve come across:
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He just looks so damn regal, this eldritch, malevolent entity that appears part octopus kraken, part dragon, part human caricature…the so called "mountain who walks."

Yes, I admit that I’m a Lovecraft/Cthulhu mythos junkie. I can’t help it. I think his stories are just amazing.

Depending on which HPL story I’ve most recently consumed, I vacillate regarding what is my absolute favorite HPL tale, The Call of Cthulhu, the Dunwich Horror or At the Mountains of Madness. Well this one has again rocketed itself to top billing on the HPL chart…for now at least. The story covers so much ground and touches on so many aspects of what would become central “mythos” lore that it’s easy to see why people hold this up as HPL’s best work. I certainly wouldn’t disagree having just read it for the fourth time.

Regardless of where you come out on the issue of Lovecraft’s best work, let me postulate that HPL never wrote a better passage describing the fundamental philosophical underpinnings of his work than the opening paragraph of The Call of Cthulhu:
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age
Those few sentences say so much. They touch on theinsignificance of man…the substantial ignorance of humanity regarding the universe…the concept of things so vast, unknowable and unable to be comprehended…and the soul-chilling coldness of what lay beyond our tiny sphere of knowledge.

Okay, so it’s not the rosiest, most upbeat of pictures, but hey…this is horror after all and when it comes to creating atmosphere and imagery to tantalize and terrify, these stories are gold.

PLOT SUMMARY:

Told in epistolary format as a transcript of the papers of our narrator, the Late Francis Wayland Thurston, the story recounts Thurston’s piecing together of a series of strange incidents all connected to a mysterious Cthulhu Cult and the dread being that the members of the cult worship. The tale is only 35 pages long and so I don’t want to give away plot details as that slow build of terror is central to the joy of this slice of scary. Let me just say that narrative stretches around the globe, from Boston to New Orleans to Greenland to China to the uncharted waters between Antarctica and New Zealand and involves shared nightmares, bizarre rituals, the dread Necronomicon, a failed expedition to hell on Earth and the sick, twisted devotees of a religion as old as man itself.

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"*

*Translation: - "In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming. "

Squeeeeeee.

THOUGHTS:

Well, I just emasculated myself and squeeeeed so that should tell you that I love this stuff. I have always been a huge fan of Lovecraft’s prose with its abundant melodrama, the dread-filled angst and the over the top references to “nameless horrors” and “eldritch, cyclopean buildings” and “dark, ancient vistas” that can stop the heart and send uncontrollable fear into all that see them. The man can make walking down a dark staircase feel like the scariest moment in history.

If you find that kind of atmosphere-manipulating prose to be off-putting, than HPL is likely not your cuppa. It is certainly mine and I have been drinking the kool-aid for a while now. In my opinion, this is about as good as classic horror gets and I can feel gush welling up even as I type this.

Still, even as a complete fanboy of Lovecraft I try not to read too much of his work at one time because I find the stories have a tendency to blur together and lose a bit of their emotional power. I’ll usually restrict myself to handfuls of 2 to 4 at a time and this allows me to savor the details of each tale and keep the entertainment level set on high.

5.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!

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