This was a bit of a slog at times, but I'm glad I read it. None of the stories were scary in the slightest, but quite a few were hilarious. For exampl...moreThis was a bit of a slog at times, but I'm glad I read it. None of the stories were scary in the slightest, but quite a few were hilarious. For example, Whisperer in Darkness is about aliens from Pluto who fly to earth at the speed of light using their "ether-resistant wings". There's even some nonsense about disembodied but functioning human brains in jars... Or Dreams In the Witch House, which is about an evil witch and her human-faced pet rat, who run around scaring people in dreams and kindnapping children on Halloween and "May Eve"... We also have Dunwich Horror, about some kind of invisible monster who *gasp* ends up knocking over a barn and a house! Truly unspeakable horror...
At first, it all seems quite ridiculous (and it is), but the relentlessly funereal tone wore me down and I eventually became something of a believer. All these stories are about doomed and lonely men of reason, who gradually lose their faith in science and go half-crazy by the end. After a while, it becomes quite fatalistic and depressing, and I grew to enjoy Lovecraft's unapologetically existential vision.
But there's no doubt that all the stories are dreadfully predictable, and his writing style is almost unbearably florid. He writes absolutely terrible dialogue and most of the tales are rather poorly paced, leading to protracted sections of pure tedium. He over-describes everything but takes great pains to convince you that the lurking monsters are undescribable and blasphemous and unspeakable, and that just looking upon them would drive any human to madness. Undescribable or not, Lovecraft never fails to describe them in detail, usually as some painfully generic fish monsters or horribly unimaginative tentacled aliens from Jupiter. These "horrors" are simply never as impressive or as unsettling as the author seemed to think. It becomes a bit much after a while and I just started wishing for some slightly more interesting scenarios or at least some subtlety, but it never happened.
Still, it's alright. I became accustomed to the writing style eventually and even found some nicely written passages. My favourite stories were:
"Rats in the Walls", which was the only story that seriously brought into question the protagonist's sanity, as well as the reliability of his narration. I liked the ambiguity at the end.
"The Shadow Over Innsmouth" which set up a nicely creepy scene and then followed up with a tense and credible set-piece. It's also the only story with a moderately satisfying "twist".
and "The Thing On the Doorstep", which was the only story to make me feel true sympathy for the protagonist, whose weak-will and good nature allow him to be manipulated and abused by his evil wife. This story also has the most sublimely ridiculous twist of the whole book. You see, the evil wife turns out to actually be the evil father-in-law, evilly possessing the body of his dead daughter....