Linda's Reviews > At the Mountains of Madness

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
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Oct 08, 12

bookshelves: classic, history-archeology, horror, science-fiction
Read from October 04 to 06, 2012

An expedition is sent to the Antarctic region to bore for samples deep in the ice with a newly developed equipment. When there, they split up and one of the teams makes a tremendous scientific discovery, before radio contact is suddenly broken. The main character, William Dyer, is worried and fly over to the other camp, with his comrade Danforth to investigate what happened, and the sight which greets them is total madness.


Spoilers!

Dyer wasn't especially well developed and I didn't get the feeling of knowing him that well, since this is his "report" to prevent another expedition coming to the dangerous wasteland. That's unfortunate because I think character development is the most important thing in a story. This didn't exactly help me understand him when he found the camp shattered and his fellow comrades destroyed beyond recognition. He was horrified, but not really devastated enough to flee the place. No one in their right mind would continue the research for answers, when knowing that a strange force is ripping people apart. That felt unbelievable. At least, that's what I think. If someone would do that, at least they would have brought weapons (which I think they didn't, if I remember correctly).

Another thing I couldn't appreciate was the constant mentioning of the fictive, but apparently rather significant, book Necronomicon. The referring felt repetitive, especially since it is a made-up book, as I understand it. The author of this Necronomicon is supposed to have immense and unlimited knowledge or suspicion of the pre-historic era and organisms then occupying the earth, something that is hard to accept. If no one on the planet had ever found any kind of evidence whatsoever worth raising a suggestion of the kind, which Lovecraft implies, the possibility of the knowledge of the author (of the Necronomicon) isn't convincing enough, in my opinion. But perhaps Necronomicon is of major importance, telling Lovecraft's readers things I'm not able to conceive because I haven't read his other books.

Apart from these flaws, the narrative was interesting and the prospect of finding our predecessors tremendously fascinating. However, this is much more than a simple horror story. It implicates something else; a bigger picture, implying something that can be applied to human beings and the conditions of research - something often found in Michael Crichton's novels - the fact that we might well be responsible for our own destruction. When creating and developing certain forces, we seldom reflect upon morals and repercussions, and the consequence could be fatal. In this novel, Lovecraft imagined that severe elimination of the first and superior race on earth.

The conception that the roles changed happened to the team as well; when thinking they had the right to dissect creatures and view them as specimens not worth respecting, their destiny was immensely horrible, but also ironic.

I can't decide whether the theme that no one can or should control nature is religious or the very opposite. A science fiction story is normally not associated with religion, but what could be interpreted as the powerful force, feared even by The Old Ones? The very power, of which a single glimpse turned Danforth mad, was it the big creator? I'm not certain what could be read into this.

The narrative, exciting and brilliant as it might be, was sometimes tedious, so, though the idea of a pre-cambrian settlement was mesmerizing, it didn't match my expectations. The countless descriptions of the Old Ones, their intelligence, prosperous life and oncoming destruction, were interesting for a while, but grew tiring. The way tension was built-up was terrific, though.

What's so interesting about this book is that it's open for interpretations and discussion, and the more I think about the underlying theme I discerned, the more I like it.
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