Sadly, this is the 4th book of the four-volume series entitled "Lairs of the Hidden Gods," meaning that I've come to the end. But it was a great ride.Sadly, this is the 4th book of the four-volume series entitled "Lairs of the Hidden Gods," meaning that I've come to the end. But it was a great ride. If you are interested in gaining another perspective on Lovecraft's work and legacy, then you must indeed make these four volumes part of your reading experience. I can definitely recommend all four very highly.
As to volume four, overall a very fine collection...some were a bit weird even for my taste (which can be way out there)...a bit more graphic than in the other three at times. However, it's a mixed bag, and all are well written and will get your blood racing.
Contents of Volume Four (The Dreaming God) are:
"Quest of the Nameless City," by Tachihara Toya: done in three parts -- you may want to be familiar with "Journey to the West" prior to reading this (at least go read something about that work) because the characters in this story come right out of that work. But here we find our characters in a redo of "Trail of Cthulhu" by August Derleth, with a twist. Very well written and one of the highlights of this volume.
"A Night in Exham Lodge," by Kurasaka Kiichiro: set in the indomitable English countryside, an American politician goes to spend time with an actress in her home, and gets a lesson on the true meaning of life. I left this story with a big "uh-oh" resounding in my head -- a kind of "be warned" alarm going off. I know it's just fiction, but sheesh...scary stuff.
"...Which Art in Heaven", by Azuchi Moe: This one was a wee bit bizarre, and hackle raising. A young woman who spent her childhood in an orphanage often wonders about a strange scar. The nuns in the orphanage aren't talking. Later, when the truth emerges, it's enough to make you gasp.
"Inside Out," by Tomonari Jun'ichi: A Japanese writer named Daisuke spends his days trying to be creative, only to be disrupted by "one of his closest friends" named Chau-chan. Whenever she's around, his writing time is disrupted. But he can't get rid of her. "Inside Out" is the story of how she came to live in his apartment, going back to the time he took a trip to Fiji. I won't say more, but you may want to go easy on your cups of kava.
"Quagmire," by Iino Fumikiko: A man who ultimately ends up going mad, set off by a newspaper item that tells of a man's death, leaves behind a record of how he got on the road to madness. It seems it all started when he went to visit his aunt in a hotel, then meets a beautiful woman. Very well written, and it was enough to send a shiver or two up my spine.
"Rshanabi Street," by Fushimi Kenji: A young man works for a company where a fellow worker has just been fired after thirty years of service. He wants to track him down, and remembers that his friend spoke a lot about Rshanabi Street, so he goes to find him. But it's one of those places that is off the map, so to speak, and it took some doing to find it. Once there, it is equally difficult for the narrator to find his way out. This one was very good -- another back of the neck hair raiser.
"City of the Dreaming God," by Yufuko Senowo: a man lives with his wife and daughter in a strange village by the ocean. His father-in-law is dying, but he still manages to open his home to a young writer who is doing research in the area. As he and his houseguest begin talking, his houseguest comes to some startling conclusions that lay bare the man's choices in life. Think of Innsmouth as being along the Japanese coast and you'll get the drift. Very very good, a fitting end to a brilliant series of books.
There are also two essays at the end of the book, one dealing with Lovecraft and Modern Occultism, and another is a look at Cthulhu and his friends on the silver screen.
Very highly recommended for any reader of Lovecraft's work, or that of his imitators or his devotees. It is an honor to have the collection in my library....more
My standard caveat for books like this is that they are a mixed bag, so you really don't know what you're getting prior to opening the covers. This waMy standard caveat for books like this is that they are a mixed bag, so you really don't know what you're getting prior to opening the covers. This was my first foray into the Japanese Lovecraftian world, although according to the chapters in the back of the book, the Japanese have been into the mythos for some time. There are mangas based on the work of HPL -- I took down the titles just in case I bump into them. Luckily I can read Japanese! Anyway, most of the stories in this book were quite fun to read, and I spent a couple of entertaining hours going through this first volume. I can definitely recommend the book to fans of Lovecraft and his imitators; the Japanese just have a different take on things.
Here's the contents list: 1. Ken Asamatsu -- "The Plague of St. James Infirmary" -- in which we discover who really runs the bad guys in Chicago. This one involves an occult detective known as Michael L. It's actually more novella sized, longer than any of the other stories. Fun.
2. Masaki Yamada - "The Import of Tremors" -- In running from incendiary firebombs in Japan at the end of WWII, two men take refuge at a shelter at a house owned by a man known only as "the white Russian," and end up wishing they hadn't. Another good one.
3. Okina Kamino - "27 May 1945" -- a very spectral and eerie story about the US and Japanese armies in a face off on Okinawa. The atmosphere in this one is awesome.
4. Masahiko Inoue - "Night Voices, Night Journeys" -- more of an erotically-charged story about a woman and the men she calls master. Very good, but read slowly. I had to do it twice.
5. Motoi Murata -- "Sacrifice" -- in which a couple move to the country for the wife's health and discover that organic living isn't all it's cracked up to be. This one was rather creepy.
6. Osamu Makino -- "Necrophallus" -- well, let's just say that Robert Price's introduction touts this one as the story that Lovecraft would never write. There's a reason. Definitely not one of my favorites.
7. Yoshiki Shibata -- "Love for Who Speaks" -- A young woman gets engaged to a young man, then finds out things about his past that she probably shouldn't know. This one's a bit predictable from the outset if you've read of lot of Lovecraft.
Overall, a good collection, and it's off to Vol. 2 for me now. ...more
Definitely a freaky collection of mythos-type stories from Japanese "disciples" of HP Lovecraft. Very well written and a must if you're a collector suDefinitely a freaky collection of mythos-type stories from Japanese "disciples" of HP Lovecraft. Very well written and a must if you're a collector such as myself. My rule of thumb is generally that when you pick up an anthology, you have to take the good with the bad, but there weren't any bad stories in this group.
Here's the contents list:
1. Ashibe Taku - The Horror in the Kabuki Theater: a novella-length story set in historical Japan in which writers of Kabuki horror have a lot more power than they realize and must use that power for good when the visitors from the angles of time and space begin to appear. Maybe a bit long, but still good.
2. Matsudono Rio - Taste of Snake's Honey: another somewhat lengthy offering, featuring a young man with some bizarre tastes in life and how his penchant for things strange came to be. This one will definitely hold your interest, keeping you turning pages until the very last word.
3. Matsuo Mirai - Inverted Kingdom: This one was a bit confusing, but still terrifying, in which a young woman fears she is losing her sanity when different events trigger her memories.
4. Konaka Chiaki - Terror Rate: IMHO, the scariest story in this book. A young woman, needing an extra job answers an ad -- and finds out exactly what the meaning of terror can be. Very creepy; this one raised the hackles on my neck.
5. Takana Fumio - Secrets of the Abyss - In which a man will do anything to save his dying wife, and pays the price.
6. Nanjo Takenori - A Night at Yuan-su - Stepping out of his home, a man meets up with modernity, while the modern world meets up with him. Very well written.
7. Hirayama Yumeaki - Summoned by the Shadows - Another quality story complete with creepy atmosphere and page-turning terror. Extremely well written; I hope to find more in translation by this author. Another one of my favorite stories in this volume.
There's also a section on Mythos gaming at the end of the story collection.
Overall...a fine read, recommended for anyone even remotely interested in mythos-based fiction. ...more
Here we are at Volume III of this four-volume series. I've already read half of Volume IV and I must say, I'll be quite sad to see this series end. OnHere we are at Volume III of this four-volume series. I've already read half of Volume IV and I must say, I'll be quite sad to see this series end. Once again, it's an anthology, and once again, when you pick up one of these books, you have to kind of take what you get -- the great, the good, the not so hot. Luckily, most of the stories in here are really really good, so it is an enjoyable and often hackle-raising reading experience. Definitely one not to miss, and even better during a storm!
Here's the contents list, with a brief blurb about each story (don't worry, definitely no spoilers):
1. The Secret Memoir of the Missionary, by Tanaka Hirofumi -- an awesome story about the first missionaries to Japan, with a twist that will definitely give you the willies.
2. Keepsake of the Grandfather, by Kida Jun'ichiro -- A man's fiancee inherits a souvenir of her grandfather's time in the south seas, and things begin to go bump in the night. Very well done and definitely a creepfest.
3. Horror Special, by Sano Shiro -- Always trying to up the ratings, an actor insists on a tv show based on the work of HP Lovecraft and gets more than he bargained for. Another one that was well written and that sucks you deep into the mythos.
4.The Road, by Aramata Hiroshi -- One of my favorite stories in this book. A Japanese businessman is traveling in the US with his companions, and decides to step out of the train at Providence to soak up some of the HP Lovecraft atmosphere for the very few minutes the train is stopping there en route to Boston. But he misses the train, and spends a wild night on a tour of HPL's old haunts. Very well done, and definitely a no-miss.
5. She Flows, by Takeuchi Yoshikazu -- Not one of my favorites, but still well written. Actually, there seemed to be very little to do with the mythos in this story of a girl whose parents were beastly to her as a child, and the horrors that followed her ever since.
6. C-City, by Kobayashi Yasumi -- A winner of a story; set in the future, the world knows that it must protect itself against the awakening of Cthulhu, and leaves its fate in the hands of two competing camps of scientists. A fantastic story, one you won't forget for a while. One of my favorites.
7. Straight to Darkness, by Tomono Sho --the world alters in a minute as two people are stranded on the subway. Emerging from their underground prison, they find that life as they knew it no longer exists. Not one of my favorites, but very well written.
there's also a section of "Cthulhu metal" at the end, featuring lists of musical artists whose music was inspired by Lovecraftian themes (sorry, no Erich Zann).
Definitely a must-have if you're a collector; recommended for anyone who wants more of the mythos, or for those who enjoy Japanese horror writing. Overall, very good....more
What a great book! The book itself is very small, but by the time you get to the end you realize that there was a lot to this story. For example, in wWhat a great book! The book itself is very small, but by the time you get to the end you realize that there was a lot to this story. For example, in what is a story set in medieval Japan, you get the following topics that are (imho) apropos in the modern world: how human beings use religion as a tool to cover up their own self interest, and how sometimes evil deeds are performed in the name of self preservation and the mob is drawn into the performance of these deeds without any thought about what they're actually doing.
a brief overview: Isaku is a small boy living in a village on the ocean that is very poor. Because of the poor fish catch & other hazards of life, Isaku's father sells himself into indentured servitude (as do other men & women of the village) to leave behind food for his family. As he leaves, he tells Isaku to take care of the family and not to let them starve. These are words Isaku does not take lightly. Mom has three other children to take care of, and life in the village is dependent on the fish catch, the octopus catch & making salt to trade in the other villages. Yet, handed down from generations is another method of survival: at night, during the harsh winter season, the cauldrons used to make the salt sit on fires that can be seen out in the ocean; in rough weather, ships seeing the fires naturally head for them. But there is a reef hidden by the sea, and of course, it goes unseen by the ships until it is too late and the ships wreck. So, each year, a bizarre ritual is performed to make the gods happy enough to send a ship their way to be wrecked.
The first part of the story describes life in general in the village, and how even a small drop in the fish to be caught can mean impending disaster & starvation. It is here we meet all of the characters and watch how they interact as a community all with the same destiny in the village. The second part discusses the origins of O-fune-sama, the shipwreck which brings the chance for survival in the harshest of conditions. The third part I won't discuss because it is at the heart of the story.
Reading a book like this, it is inevitable that you, the reader, will begin asking yourself questions. How far would you go to ensure your family's survival? Would you let yourself be swept along in events just because the rest of the group does it, even if you know that what you're doing is wrong?
An awesome read, one that I won't soon forget....more
While the concept of what's weird may be in the eye of the beholder, there's no mistaking that Now You're One of Us definitely belongs in this categorWhile the concept of what's weird may be in the eye of the beholder, there's no mistaking that Now You're One of Us definitely belongs in this category. I finished it two days ago and couldn't even pick it up again to write this review. Ick. The book is listed as mystery/horror on the back cover, and while it's definitely horrifying, it's more of a suspense novel where the author keeps you reading by edging ever closer to what's really going on but never quite getting there until the last moments. And while I liked feeling the tension ratchet as I was constantly scratching my head wondering just what the hell the big reveal is going to be, once I got there, it was a shocker.
A young woman named Noriko marries into the wealthy Shito family, which consists of four generations living under the same mansion roof. She can't believe her luck -- they're all so incredibly nice, heaping praise on her for the slightest thing, always calling her their "treasure," and making her life easy in her new home. As a new daughter-in-law, the situation is better than she could have imagined, although she still feels like she's an outsider in many ways and tries desperately to fit in. But while hanging up the family's laundry one day, a man approaches her, saying there's something he has to tell her. Noriko wonders what he could possibly have to say, but before he gets the chance, a family member comes out and he clams up then walks away. The man turns out to be one of the family's tenants in one of their many properties, a former ice vendor who has fallen on harder times. While Noriko is away on a visit to her family, she learns that the man's home has burned down and the man is dead, and she begins to wonder if perhaps something not kosher is going on here. Add to that some strange conversations overheard deep in the night, seeing things she couldn't possibly be seeing, and other odd things, and Noriko's suspicions continue to mount. After confiding her fears to her school friend Tomomi, things in the Shito household move swiftly into bizarro world, but Noriko's worries are always countered by the family's constant reassurance, to the point where Noriko begins to wonders why she's so mistrusting and hurtful toward this family who is so good to her, a family as she notes, she can "trust from my heart."
I have to admit to being sucked into this book pretty much all the way up until the end. The author's talent lies in ratcheting up the tension and suspense level all the way through the novel, and the reader is compelled to keep turning pages not only to see what's going to happen next, but also because he/she wants some kind of satisfying explanation for all of the bizarre things going on here. Noriko's oscillation between the real and unreal is a good reason to keep reading, as the creeping doubt in her mind transfers over to the reader, making it a highly-suspenseful story.
But there are also reasons this book bothered me. First, there comes a point where you absolutely must wonder why Noriko doesn't just go leave everything and run home to the protection of her own family, a question I kept asking myself many times over throughout the story. Any one with half a brain would have gone away and never looked back. Then there's the ending -- I won't say what it is, but my first reaction was literally that of "wtf??" and then a desire to run and take a shower. So maybe in some bizarre context it makes sense, but it's still unsettling even thinking about it now, two days after I finished it.
If you're really into the realm beyond strange, this one will make you really happy. The best part of the book is in the getting there, but once you've arrived, don't say I didn't warn you. ...more
Seriously I have never in my life felt so off kilter during and after reading a book as I did with this one. It is truly a masterpiece of darkness likSeriously I have never in my life felt so off kilter during and after reading a book as I did with this one. It is truly a masterpiece of darkness like I've never seen before. You can read my discussion of this book here. My advice: go get a copy now.