To begin with, I am not unfamiliar with the works of Brian Lumley--the covers of his TOR published Necroscope series literally grinned at me as I shelTo begin with, I am not unfamiliar with the works of Brian Lumley--the covers of his TOR published Necroscope series literally grinned at me as I shelved them in the then-employment of a Cleveland-based bookstore. Being a person who likes weird fiction--especially HPL & C.A. Smith--& also likes modern-horror, I gave Lumley's first volume, Necroscope a try. & I absolutely loathed it.
I'll spare you the details, but I found Lumley's writing annoying in it's "playful" punctuation (fans of Lumley know what I'm talking about--the heavy use of colons; sometimes in the same sentence)& the way he would build up a great plot only to rush with blinding speed to a conclusion. He also seemed to be pleased with his melding of Robert Ludlum-like stories with Vampires/Necromancers mixing it up with the CIA & KGB. It may have worked during the Cold War but it falls flat now.
Imagine my surprise when I found out he was a Lovecraft fanatic & wrote lots of early stories within the HPL MYTHOS vein. I am a HUGE fan of HPL & have always searched out stories written by those authors who also worshiped at the altar of HPL--finding their footing within the horror fiction genre through general pastiche. Not many can capture the feel or atmosphere a HPL tale weaves within the reader & I can honestly say Lumley--despite what I feel about his Necroscope drivel--is one of the few who can capture the HPL MYTHOS malignancy with some sense of proper command. It pains me to write this--it really does--because I truly hate Lumley's novels. Others who can achieve this same MYTHOS quality are Ramsey Campbell & Robert Bloch who were actually correspondents with Lovecraft in their early days of youth--trying to find their voices within a genre they shared with their mentor.
This collection of "HPL pastiche" is really a tribute to one of Lovecraft's acolytes who has somehow by some miracle become one of the most celebrated writers of MYTHOS fiction. He has been put on the shelf next to Campbell & Bloch as one of the continuing contributors to the Lovecraft cannon. So, in summation, this book is a collection of tributes of story imitation by writers to a writer who has paying tribute to his idol by imitating his genre. A Moebius Strip if there ever was one.
But is it worth it. Simple answer: Yes.
Lumley's two stories stand out--Cement Surroundings & Spaghetti--& are deeply rooted in the HPL vein. Both deal with Lumley's answer to HPL's Deep Ones: The Burrowers Beneath. While HPL has a huge population of aquatic Cthulhu-worshiping creatures that dwell in submarine cities, Lumley answered with underground dwellers in the earth--hinting that they too had massive cities in which they lived. These two tales are a reason to pick up this book.
But there are other reasons as well: Where I Go, Mi-Go, Shudder Wyrm, Not to Force the Rhymes, A Forty Share in Innsmouth. These are good stories that entertain--evoking Lumley's creations & swirling them into HPL's--& help pass the time when looking for entertainment. They are not ground-shaking by any means &, sometimes, teeter on the edge of being above average. But in the end, it is Lumley who has the better grasp on how to execute a HPL-style tale. I could see someone finding Cement Surroundings on a pile of HPL unpublished manuscripts that he never got around to revisiting for another draft.
That's as big of a compliment I can give, Mr. Lumley....more