Nancy Oakes's Reviews > The Ithaqua Cycle

The Ithaqua Cycle by Robert M. Price
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Mar 13, 08

bookshelves: horror
Read in March, 2008

No matter how many of these Call of Cthulhu collections I read, there are always some stories that are much better than others, the case in any anthology. In this collection there are a total of 14 stories (plus an introduction by the editor and comments by the editor prior to every story).

Overall, it was an okay book, and by far, the best story in the entire collection was the first one, "The Wendigo," by Algernon Blackwood. After that, readers of Cthulhu mythos stories in their various forms will recognize many of the authors who have made contributions to this volume, but Blackwood's work is far superior.

Here's the contents list (a * denotes my favorites)

1. "The Wendigo", by Algernon Blackwood *
A party of hunters tracking moose up in the Canadian wilderness decides that perhaps they'd have better luck if they split up. Two of them, Defago (the guide) and Simpson (a young Scotsman in the hunting party) take off in a canoe for the other side of the lake. The first night out, the Wendigo makes its appearance known and leaves horror in its wake. Excellent story; perhaps tame after what's being written for horror these days, but I felt it was superb.

2. " The Thing from Outside", by George Allen England *
Originally appearing in a magazine in 1923, it still has good creep potential today. A small group of people making their way south to leave Hudson Bay before the harsh winter sets in have their own encounter with evil in the form of " a Thing from outside." They find themselves in a race for survival and their own sanity. Good.

3. "The Thing That Walked on the Wind", by August Derleth *
I must admit to having read this before, but I'm not sure exactly where since I have so many of these anthologies that the stories are all starting to blur together. Nevertheless, this is where he changes the name of the Wendigo to Ithaqua and links it (in his way) to the original Mythos of HPL. Good and creepy.

4. "The Snow-Thing (Ithaqua)", by August Derleth -- the sequel to The Thing That Walked on the Wind, and not as good as the original. I enjoyed the basic story (too bad he couldn't have done a series of just Dalhousie stories) but this one brings in other characters from the mythos that just don't seem to fit.

5. "Beyond the Threshold", by August Derleth
Okay, this one was pretty decent, but not on list of top stories in the book. A young man from Arkham is summoned to go to the home of his grandfather in the northern wilds of Wisconsin. It seems that there have been some strange occurrences as of late. Of course, there's the typical "evil texts that should have been burned but weren't so they fell into the wrong hands" routine along with the "summoning of the evil power" thing going on here. Not much new or highly original in this particular story if you've read much of HPL or Derleth in the past.

6. "Born of the Winds", by Brian Lumley*
This one I really enjoyed, but then again I'm a major fan of most of Lumley's work. An American meteorologist is visiting Navissa, Manitoba to recover after having suffered some type of "chest complaint." He's staying at the home of a friend, Judge Andrews. It seems that the Judge had a friend who had some years back disappeared into the cold wilds of the North, along the Olassie Trail. Belief in the Wendigo/Wind-Walker is strong here. Anyway, the meteorologist overhears a conversation between Bridgeman's widow and the judge, and it turns out that now Mrs. Bridgeman's son is missing along the Olassie trail, and she aims to get him back. The Meteorologist volunteers after having read some of Bridgeman's work on anthropology and strange cults of the north. Little do either of them know what's in store for them....
A very good story; one of the better ones in the collection.

7. "Spawn of the North", by George C. Diezel II and Gordon Linzner *
A different look at the Wendigo/Wind-Walker/Ithaqua legend, set in days of yesteryear. Up in the far north of the Yukon is the Consolidated Mine, whose workers hang out in their off time in the Lucky Nugget Saloon. A new guy comes into town, and starts drawing attention to himself by telling tall tales from his home, Texas. Seems that anything that the Northwest has, well, it's bigger in Texas. As he's bragging about some "mighty worrisome creatures," one of the patrons, Old Jac, starts off in a semi-trance. He starts going on about the Wendigo and shows the new guy the mark left on him by the creature some fifty years earlier. Well, needless to say this is one of the homes of the Wendigo and no one is safe, not even a tough-talkin' Texan. I liked this one; it's a nice and different approach to the story.

8. "They Only Come Out at Night", by Randy Meloff - Think Wendigo = Yeti and move the scene to the Himalayas, add some Ia! Ia! Ithaqua and you've got the picture.

9. "Footsteps in the Sky", by Pierre Comtois* This one was also a resettlement of the Ithaqua/Wendigo/Wind-Walker legend, this time to the far northern forests of Russia during the time of the Russian Civil War just after the Bolsheviks had taken power. An American journalist joins a unit fighting against the reds and gets much more than he bargained for. Well written, suspenseful and just all around a fine story.

10. "Jendick's Swamp," by Joseph Payne Brennan
A writer and a constable go to visit an abandoned, ramshackle home that sits in the middle of a swamp after a visitor from New York doing some hunting got lost and then came upon the old house from which he swore that two eyes were staring at him. he took off quickly, but the constable's curiousity was aroused. It turns out the family that had owned the house was a supplier of sacrifices to Ithaqua -- but supposedly they had all died off. So of course, off they go to look at the place; well, I won't spoil the rest. This one I enjoyed.

11. "The Wind Has Teeth", by G. Warlock Vance and Scott H. Urban*

When harbingers of modern progress want to take over a sacred site and construct condos, it may be time for nature to strike back. Told in a not so orderly way, this was a good story; somewhat more modern than the others in this collection.

12. "Stalker of the Wild Wind", by Stephen Mark Rainey * A Most excellent story which starts out very normally, and just when you're wondering what could possibly come from this, or why this story is in this book, the abnormal reaches in and hooks you. The story is told in modern times, looking back to WWI, by a pilot of a German plane, and tells of a dogfight he once got into that changed his life forever. Very well told and creepy, too.

13. "The Country of the Wind", by Pierre Comtois -- In the Vermont hills, a young hunter comes across a thoroughly deserted town and all too late discovers why it is so. Good.

14. "Wrath of the Wind-Walker", by James Ambuehl *-- A reporter received an assignment to interview a reclusive professor who has suddenly decided to speak out and divulge a secret regarding an expedition which began in Cambodia during the time of the Khmer Rouge. His mission: to look for a mysterious cult that worshiped a god of snow and ice that was spoken of in the mysterious Eltdown Shards. What they find, and its aftermath is quite literally chilling. Fine story - very creepy.

Overall, a very fun read, with many familiar authors and some very good work. Recommended to those with an interest in the Lovecraftian mythos (although there is nothing here by HPL). I'd definitely start with some basic Lovecraft before going into these anthologies.
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