Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft: Dreams of Terror and Death

Rate this book
This volume collects, for the first time, the entire Dream Cycle created by H. P. Lovecraft, the master of twentieth-century horror, including some of his most fantastic tales:

THE DOOM THAT CAME TO SARNATH--Hate, genocide, and a deadly curse.
THE NAMELESS CITY--Death lies beneath the shifting sands, in a story linking the Dream Cycle with the legendary Cthulhu Mythos.
THE CATS OF ULTHAR--In Ulthar, no man may kill a cat...and woe unto any who tries.
THE DREAM QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH--The epic nightmare adventure with tendrils stretching throughout the entire Dream Cycle.


387 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1934

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

H.P. Lovecraft

4,269 books16.6k followers
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, of Providence, Rhode Island, was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction.

Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror: life is incomprehensible to human minds and the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity. Lovecraft has developed a cult following for his Cthulhu Mythos, a series of loosely interconnected fictions featuring a pantheon of human-nullifying entities, as well as the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore. His works were deeply pessimistic and cynical, challenging the values of the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Christianity. Lovecraft's protagonists usually achieve the mirror-opposite of traditional gnosis and mysticism by momentarily glimpsing the horror of ultimate reality.

Although Lovecraft's readership was limited during his life, his reputation has grown over the decades. He is now commonly regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th Century, exerting widespread and indirect influence, and frequently compared to Edgar Allan Poe.


Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
3,265 (47%)
4 stars
2,336 (33%)
3 stars
1,030 (14%)
2 stars
209 (3%)
1 star
74 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 197 reviews
Profile Image for Peter.
2,623 reviews468 followers
July 8, 2019
Morgan is caught in an endless dream involving an eerie landscape and an old railway car. What are the two persons, one of them the conductor, doing there? This short story has a creepy atmosphere but overall it lacks a bit of action. Well written as usual this story was nothing special to me. Okay!
Profile Image for Ben.
52 reviews7 followers
September 2, 2008
Let's be frank -- I love Lovecraft. The "Necronomicon" that you've heard referenced a zillion times is a fictional tome of his invention. He was writing in the 1930's, and his work is dated by its slow pacing, Poe-like vocabulary, and predictability (now that he's fathered the entire horror genre -- nearly every successful writer from Neil Gaiman to Stephen King cites him as an influence -- and its tropes are so recognizable to us). But Lovecraft's style is entirely singular, so much so that the numerous homages to him, and writerly devotees of his, are blindingly obvious to anyone familiar with Lovecraft's stories. Despite this, his threats and monsters were so original they were surreal -- you cannot possibly guess the actual details of them -- and no one since has had the cajones to reuse them except in the most deliberately referential way.

Lovecraft was a skeptical, atheistic researcher of the occult who depicted a universe where cultists worship and summon "deities" that are really just alien beings with no more regard for humanity than we have for a colony of ants (to borrow a phrase from a recent NPR special), and that generally require blood sacrifices and want to consume us all. Magic is possible due to undiscovered laws of the universe, which challenge the sanity and morality of anyone who contemplates them. Anytime you see a horror story that involves that type of idea, or for that matter any Creepy Tome of Forbidden Knowledge that causes all the trouble, you're seeing Lovecraft's influence. Knowledge of the way things really are in the universe is dangerous, any gods you can contact are unthinkably evil and hostile to life, and the more you understand about it all the more you go insane.

Lovecraft was afflicted with nightmares his entire life, and often wrote them into his stories -- wrote his stories around them, in fact. His interpretation of magic and the occult has been so influential that I've even seen him cited by Christian extremists as someone who had genuine contact with, and knowledge of, Satan and his minions -- which is just to say that his world is quite convincing as depicted. If you were raised by enthusiastic Christians you were probably introduced in some way to the idea of the Great Satanic Conspiracy running the world; that is largely inspired by the Illuminatis trilogy, but also very heavily influenced, as I now understand it, by the ideas of Lovecraft and his devotees.

So, it's a little slow to read, but it's great fun. Hopefully you too will understand why the man, to this day, has a large and devoted cult following. (Pun intended, and highly apropos.)

P.S. No reason why I picked this volume of his work instead of one of the many others. I will say that this and the other two Del Rey volumes seem well ordered, and well chosen as far as which stories are collected in a volume (important because Lovecraft only wrote short fiction, and was never published in anthology form in his lifetime -- so you tend to get a lot of chaos and redundancy when you try to collect his works). And they certainly do have some beautiful cover art.
Profile Image for ᴥ Irena ᴥ.
1,649 reviews214 followers
October 19, 2015
The Thing in the Moonlight is based on Lovecraft's letter where he describes his dream.
An unnamed narrator tells a story of an illiterate man (Morgan) who starts writing someone else's dream. The man from that dream introduces himself as Howard Phillips.
'My name is Howard Phillips. I live at 66 College Street, in Providence, Rhode Island. On November 24, 1927—for I know not even what the year may be now—, I fell asleep and dreamed, since when I have been unable to awaken.'
The dreamworld where he is, is in ruins. There are familiar things like railway tracks, cars and such. No one is around. That doesn't last though.

What he thinks is a man at first turns out to be something more sinister. He describes his face 'a mere white cone tapering to one blood-red-tentacle...'

the thing

The worst thing about it is that it never ends.
Profile Image for Tom.
39 reviews8 followers
November 12, 2013
If you think Lovecraft is all doom and madness, this compilation of stories is here to teach an important lesson: sometimes he's also writing about how cats can save someone from moon monsters. This collection of short stories is a well-selected look into the stories Lovecraft wrote set in and around the world of dreams. Only brushing the Cthulhu mythos, I found these other works to offer a more rounded view of the author and the universe he created. Included among the shorter stories are two novellas, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Dream Quest for Unknown Kadath. Both of these works were rather trying at times - Lovecraft's signature attention to somewhat dry and very minute detail can drag sometimes over a hundred pages - but I enjoyed both and they were a refreshing change of pace.

This is a must read for anyone looking for a side of Lovecraft which has been somewhat overlooked in popular culture, and for those who want to know what's up with his love of cats.
Profile Image for Frances.
495 reviews26 followers
September 19, 2016
I need to get a couple of things up front, right off the bat.

(1) I have a great and abiding fondness for many of Lovecraft's stories; "Pickman's Model" is a longtime favourite, and "The Dunwich Horror" and "The Colour out of Space" and "The Cats of Ulthar" are part of my very early memories of horror fiction.

(2) Oh dear god the man was racist. The man was horrendously racist, and it's not all just the time period he was living in. The first story (as opposed to fragment) in this book is "oh dear god, the horror, the evil disgusting inhuman Eskimos wiped out the noble men of prehistory."
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,514 reviews41 followers
October 5, 2016
This collection had some good stories, bad stories, and weird Lord Dunsayian stories. Then again everyone's perceptions of the stories will be different. And that is a good thing.
Profile Image for Leothefox.
283 reviews13 followers
March 18, 2016
Twice I set out to read Randolph Carter's dream quest and twice I was snatched away... I first purchased this book way back in 2003, when I wasn't much of a reader. Fast forward to now and the third time was the charm.

This one took me a while, mostly because I had a lot of stress, had to move and such, but it was well worth it. Lovecraft's dream quest has some of his best stuff. In this collection there's loads of great shorts like “The Nameless City” and “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” some novel-length stuff like “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” and “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath” and some tantalizing fragments like “The Descendant”.

This is Lovecraft under the influence of Lord Dunsany, reaching out for cosmic wonder, taking his terrors to poetic heights. It's exciting stuff! Randolph Carter's cycle really takes you out there, into the dream world, the moon, the cosmos, beyond madness and points North. “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”, a collaboration with E. Hoffman Price, makes a wonderful climax, so much so that I wish I'd read these in order.

While these tales take us beyond sleep and over the spires of candy-colored cities and through marching mountains, they also take us to the reality of Lovecraft's New England, which he renders lyrically as a paradise on earth. This, to me, is an aspect that takes old HPL and company out of the realm of mere hack-work that the pulps are forever associated with.

I'm really glad I got back into this book! It's always worth it to re-visit an imaginative wellspring like Lovecraft, especially here in the heart of his cosmic vision.
Profile Image for East Bay J.
586 reviews20 followers
March 15, 2011
To my mind, H. P. Lovecraft stands as one of the most singular and interesting writers of the 20th century. Just as interesting as his stories and writing style are his unusual life, voluminous letter writing and his circle of friends (Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, etc.). Most interesting, perhaps, was the pantheon of gods he created and the concept he wrote around that humanity are pawns, specks of dust in an unfeeling universe.

The Dream Cycle Of H. P. Lovecraft collects twenty five of Lovecraft’s tales, grouped by their somewhat related subject matter of dreams and dream journeys. I would say this is a loose set of rules at best, given that Lovecraft’s stories seem to all be more or less related in various ways. Many of the stories here mention the deities of the Cthulhu Mythos so, ultimately, it seems more accurate to think of this as a collection of Lovecraft tales as opposed to a collection of a certain kind of Lovecraft tale.

There are some real gems in this volume. One of my favorites is Pickman’s Model, a story containing the classic Lovecraft reveal at the end, meant to shatter the wits and scare the pants off any reader. What I like so much about this story is that it is told in the form of a one sided dialogue. Most Lovecraft stories are told in a narrative, almost journalistic style. This happened then this happened, followed by these things and this other thing. His command of the language is such that these stories are still highly entertaining, but Pickman’s Model stands out for its unique use of dialogue.

I also especially liked The Hound this time around. The story’s grave robbing bohemians reminded me of Norwegian black metal kids playacting at evil. Unlike Norway’s misguided youth, however, Lovecraft’s protagonists aren’t playacting and suffer the consequences.

Of the longer tales (and these are some of Lovecraft’s longest), The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath takes center stage in this collection. I like that one, but The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward and Dreams In The Witch House strike me as better stories and better written.

While this is a fantastic collection, I would recommend Lovecraft neophytes start with another Del Rey collection, The Best Of H. P. Lovecraft, which collects most of the famous Cthulhu stories and is the best representation of Lovecraft as a writer, in my opinion.
Profile Image for David Stephens.
483 reviews10 followers
May 12, 2013
As should be obvious from the title, this collection of Lovecraft stories focuses on dreams. In many of these tales, Lovecraft suggests that dreams are where truth actually lies as opposed to reality where it is often thought to be. He believes dreams are things "whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier." And most of the characters herein try to tear down that barrier.

While there are some more straightforward stories here—"From Beyond," "The Dreams in the Witch-House"—many of them seem like cosmic folk tales, explaining the origins of humanity and how people have established certain systems of belief.

Included among many brief stories are two novellas—"The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath" and "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward." The former begins well enough with nightmarish imagery and dark, rich prose, but it doesn't take long before it becomes a complete mess. It involves Randolph Carter traveling through locations both terrible and majestic in his dreams, seeking a city of sunlight, and encountering various creatures along the way. It becomes quite a slog to finish, as many of the creatures and locations seem completely arbitrary and often blur together. Also, its hard to take creatures called "Gugs" and "Zoogs" seriously. "Charles Dexter Ward" may get a bit repetitive and heavy handed but at least it builds some mystery and feels like an actual story. Perhaps Lovecraft was trying to drive his readers as insane as his characters often end up. That's the only way I can find that he may have succeeded with "The Dream Quest."

My favorite story, though, was "The Strange High House in the Mist." It begins with some of the most gorgeous prose I've seen from Lovecraft. And while the creepiness of its setup dissolves into a more sentimental vibe, it still latches on to readers and makes for a compelling read all the way to the end.

This is definitely not my favorite collection of Lovecraft stories, but there are still enough positive attributes to merit a look in its direction.
Profile Image for Madeleine.
Author 2 books861 followers
August 24, 2010
I love how Lovecraft wrote. Really. His word choice, his style, his rampant anglophilia, his imitable style that inspired so many of horror and fantasy's modern-day kings. You can tell the man's got serious talent -- and a truly terrifying imagination, my God -- and it's a right shame that he didn't get the recognition he deserved in his lifetime.

A collection of short stories just wasn't the best introduction to him for me. And it doesn't help that I read this in 30-page chunks spanning more than a month. I mean, the longer stories sucked me in and offered all the development and exploration I wanted from Lovecraft, but the first handful of tales just seemed to end far, far sooner than I wanted them to. But the sheer creepiness and masterful storytelling showcased in this collection definitely makes me want to give Lovecraft's beefier works a try.
1,770 reviews33 followers
January 17, 2022
Introduction: Concerning Dreams and Nightmares by Neil Gaiman - 3.5 Stars
Azathoth - 3.5 Stars
The Descendant - 3 Stars
The Thing in the Moonlight - 3.5 Stars
Polaris - 3.5 Stars
Beyond the Wall of Sleep - 5 Stars
The Doom that Came to Sarnath - 4 Stars
The Statement of Randolph Carter - 4.5 Stars
The Cats of Ulthar - 4 Stars
Celephaïs - 4 Stars
From Beyond - 4.25 Stars
Nyarlathotep - 3 Stars
The Nameless City - 4.5 Stars
The Other Gods - 3 Stars
Ex Oblivione - 4 Stars
The Quest of Iranon - 4 Stars
The Hound - 5 Stars
Hypnos - 3.75 Stars
What the Moon Brings - 4 Stars
Pickman’s Model - 5 Stars
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath - 5 Stars
The Silver Key - 4 Stars
The Strange High House in the Mist - 5 Stars
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward - 5 Stars
The Dreams in the Witch-House - 5 Stars
Through the Gates of the Silver Key - 3.5 Stars
Profile Image for Luke.
534 reviews33 followers
April 6, 2015
First, I am a long-time Lovecraft fan. For years I've dug his ability - despite his Poe-aping turgid prose - to convey something unique, the ripples of which are still felt in horror. The nameless, strange terrors that became his stock-in-trade are certainly unique, and forgive a lot of his faults. (Overlong work, repetitive pieces, and a lack of proper description - though this last is understandable as he was largely cribbing from nightmares.)


Ole HPL is racist.

And not just mildly.

He's a pretty terrible human. We know he was a misanthrope, pretty much - well, except for that picture of him smiling in Brooklyn - but he's up there with George Lucas in terms of the whole lazy stereotype thing.

(I guess I should be thankful that he's not pro-rape, as per some of Ian Fleming's more creepy moments.)

I know there's the idea that we shouldn't try to map today's sensibilities onto people writing in another time, and I know there too is an idea that we shouldn't censor creators, but it's a shame that there's so much overt racism in HPL's work - especially in a collection like this, which doesn't so much mine the Cthulhu mythos but rather touches on the more SF/dreamlike of his works (as well as his laudable love of cats) - as it really pulls you out of the work. It's probably most obvious in 'Through the Gates of the Silver Key', but it's there in the other stuff too.

It's difficult for me, as I love the guy's work, but these moments leave you with some 'oh, man' feelings which are hard to reconcile. (Especially if paired with things like his view on jazz, and this terrible poem.)

I can't dismiss him because of the contributions he's made, and the pull that the stories still have. But reading him now as an adult (as opposed to a lonely teenager) bring his problems squarely to my attention.

I still intend to read the rest of the books in the series, though. So consider the racism stuff an ongoing thought that will probably accompany my reading. It's hard not to have it as a companion.

There's a great post on HPL and racism (and the 'man of his time' defense) here, and it worth reading if you're a Lovecraft fan. Acknowledging the dude had problems beyond slavering demon-sultans is a good start, if we're to avoid mindless (piping?) following.

To finish, have some Mountain Goats, singing about the man. (Well, kinda.)
Profile Image for Davey-d.
9 reviews2 followers
September 9, 2007
it's Lovecraft and all the surmise on his personal life and beliefs aside, this guy is twisted, dark, macabre(and you really don't get to use this word very often), and writes like no other and I love it. To all that have that streak of Cure listening, black wearing(and who doesn't in PDX), ruminations on a bleak death this is for you. I respectfully, religiously give this tome a read during the first storms of fall around Halloween. Not for the faint of heart.
Profile Image for Fred Klein.
521 reviews19 followers
January 31, 2015
Full disclosure: I have not read this entire collection. I previously read "The Dreams in the Witch-House", and I picked it up again to read "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward". This is horror in the tradition -- I'd say -- of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein": Science-driven, and written in a very 'literary' style that may challenge readers used to modern horror. Not an easy read, but very rewarding.
Profile Image for Dave.
689 reviews3 followers
October 20, 2007
My first real foray into Lovecraft. While some of the stories are disposable, many are quite good and some are excellent (Pickman's Model, The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward stand out). I feel, after reading this, that my plans of living a hermetic life and indulging in strange pursuits are justified.
Profile Image for Jefferson.
496 reviews11 followers
September 19, 2015
Songfully or Horrifically Transcending the Mundane

Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft (1995) is a collection of three "dream fragments," 19 short stories, two novellas, and one collaboration story. Most of the works have thematic and or dramatic connections to dreams, and many take place in Lovecraft's "dreamlands." Most of the characters either pursue the ineffable too avidly ("with unsanctioned phrensy"), or dream beyond the toil and torpor of the "real" world. Either way, there's more to life than the daily waking world. Here's an annotated list of the stories.

1. Azathoth (1922/38) read by Robertson Dean
A dream fragment in which a man travels "out of life on a quest into the spaces whither the world's dreams had fled."

2. The Descendant (1926/38) read by Simon Vance
This dream fragment begins "In London there is a man who screams when the church bells ring" and asserts that our reality is one atom in a vast fabric of time and space.

3. The Thing in the Moonlight (1934/41) read by Sean Runnette
In the third dream fragment a dreamer desperately tries to write himself awake out of a terrible nightmare featuring a railroad car and a tentacled conductor.

4. Polaris (1918/1920) read by Elijah Alexander
No warrior, the dreamer is manning the watchtower to protect Lomar from squat yellow invaders when a leering star sends him inopportunely to sleep.

5. Beyond the Wall of Sleep (1919) read by Stefan Rudnicki
A degenerate murderer in an insane asylum proves that "Freud's puerile symbolism" can't explain real dreams: "our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon."

6. The Doom that Came to Sarnath (1919/20) read by Robertson Dean
Sarnath, a mighty city 10,000 years ago, receives a 1000-year pay back.

7. The Statement of Randolph Carter (1920) read by Bronson Pinchot
Randolph Carter recounts Harley Warren's descent into the foul hole of a sepulcher, Carter having "witnessed" the adventure above ground via portable telephone.

8. The Cats of Ulthar (1920) read by Elijah Alexander
Why the people of Ulthar never harm cats.

9. Celephais (1920/22) read by Simon Prebble
Realizing that "the urges and aspirations of waking life lead to nothing," Kuranes escapes its prosaic poison by dreaming himself into Celephais.

10. From Beyond (1920/34) read by Tom Weiner
Obsessed with research revealing the real universe, including hideous unseen aliens all around us, Crawford Tillinghast ("a shuddering gargoyle") shares his discoveries with the narrator.

11. Nyarlathotep (1920) read by Stefan Rudnicki
A bleak dreaming/waking trip through space and future into "the audient void": "past ghastly midnights of rotting creation, corpses of dead worlds with sores that were cities, charnel winds that brush the pallid stars and make them flicker low."

12. The Nameless City (1921) read by Malcom Hillgartner
The narrator travels by camel into "a parched and terrible valley under the moon" and descends into a ruin "protruding uncannily above the sands as parts of a corpse may protrude from an ill-made grave."

13. The Other Gods (1921/33) read by Stefan Rudnicki
Barzai the Wise learns the hard way that gods don't like men accessing their inaccessible places.

14. Ex Oblivione (1921) read by Sean Runnette
Because "no new horror can be more terrible than the daily torture of the commonplace," the narrator takes a drug and "songfully" dissolves "again into that native infinity of crystal oblivion from which the daemon Life had called me for one brief and desolate hour."

15. The Quest of Iranon (1921/35) read by Elijah Alexander
In this ironic Dunsany-esque tale, Iranon, a vine-crowned, singing youth, is on a quest for an imaginary city called Aira in which he believes he'd been a prince.

16. The Hound (1922/27) read by Simon Prebble
From the pre-Raphaelites through the decadents to diabolism, the narrator and his friend become aesthetic ghouls in England till they grave-rob an obscene amulet.

17. Hypnos (1922/23) read by Simon Vance
A Poe-esque story featuring doubles, drugs to dream beyond dreams, and drugs to avoid "Sleep, that sinister adventure of all our nights."

18. What the Moon Brings (1922/23) Read by Sean Runnette
"I hate the moon--I am afraid of it--for when it shines on certain scenes familiar and loved it sometimes makes them unfamiliar and hideous."

19. Pickman's Model (1926/27) read by Malcom Hillgartner
An artist paints pictures of monsters breaking into the upper world from subways and cellars, not from imagination, but from LIFE, as in a painting of a demon "gnawing at the head [of a man] as a child nibbles at a stick of candy."

20. The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1927/43) read by Bronson Pinchot
Randolph Carter quests for a marvelous inaccessible dream city evoking "the poignancy and suspense of almost-vanished memory, the pain of lost things." He visits places like Dylath-Leen, Celephais, and the Cerenerian Sea, encounters beings like zoogs, ghasts, and gugs, travels by galleon, zebra, and yak, and is transported by cats, night-gaunts, and hippocephalic shantak-birds. The novella is rich and dense with beautiful dream/nightmare writing, as when Carter is "stopped by a red-robed sentry till he had told three dreams beyond belief, and proved himself a dreamer worthy to walk up Thran's steep mysterious streets and linger in bazaars where the wares of the ornate galleons were sold." There's also some humor, as when Carter's ghoul allies are "in general respectful, even if one did attempt to pinch him while several others eyed his leanness speculatively." The finale is superb.

21. The Silver Key (1926/29) read by Bronson Pinchot
After prosaic daily life occultism, religion, and authorship fail him, Randolph Carter at 54 is contemplating suicide when he finds a key.

22. The Strange High House in the Mist (1926/31) read by Tom Weiner
The people of Kingsport (near Arkham) avoid a strange crag and the strange house atop it, while a philosopher avid for mysteries climbs up and is invited in.

23. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927/43) read by Robertson Dean
Prematurely aged Charles Dexter Ward inexplicably disappears from an insane asylum, leaving behind a disturbed Dr. Willett. The novella involves historical research, underground labs, immortal wizards, enspirited paintings, and summoned spirits.

24. The Dreams in the Witch-House (1932/33) read by John Lescault
Dreaming and waking merge with increasing horror for Walter Gilman, a Miskatonic University student studying mathematics and witchcraft and renting an unwholesome room in an unwholesome house.

25. Through the Gates of the Silver Key (1934) read by Bronson Pinchot
The lawyer cousin of the absent Carter wants to divide up his estate, while his friends want to wait for his return, and a strange Swami relates what happened to him: "Had his whole quest not been based upon a faith in the unreality of the local and partial?" E. Hoffmann Price co-wrote the story.

Lovecraft's indescribable/unspeakable/nameless/blasphemous monsters, horrors, structures, and musics often verge on the vague and absurd. But he also writes rich descriptions and imaginative set pieces and has a finely warped sense of humor. His dreamland stories build a mythos less detailed and more nightmarish than Tolkien's. Lovecraft's sensitive dreamer/artist/writer/scientist heroes explore metaphysical reality, dreaming and perception being more important than physical action because "illusion is real and substance unreal." And because appalling horror lurks around the corner, his heroes--unlike John Carter and Conan--are bundles of nerves prone to fainting fits, paroxysms of terror, and psychological breakdowns (night-gaunts snatch Randolph Carter's unused scimitar and tickle him into submission!). And unlike Carter and Conan, Lovecraft's heroes have no interest in romance (indeed, apart from an ineffectual mother and a wicked witch, there are no female characters in this collection). He favors poetry and imagination over science, but uses scientific language and concepts to authenticate his fantasies. His vision is bleak: "the blind cosmos grinds aimlessly on from nothing to something and from something back to nothing again, neither heeding nor knowing the wishes or existence of the minds that flicker for a second now and then in the darkness."

The readers of the audiobook are mostly fine, the best being Robertson Dean (savorily bass), Stefan Rudnicki (richly bass), Simon Vance (elegantly intelligent), Simon Prebble (gravelly dignified), and Bronson Pinchot (creepily tender).

Fans of imaginative (if febrile, purple, and pulpy) stories fusing fantasy, sf, and horror should like this collection.
81 reviews6 followers
July 29, 2021
Curious book.....I don't think I need to comment on Lovecraft any further than has already been done. I will say that while I immensely enjoyed the stories within, particularly the three longer ones, some of the other tales were a bit repetitive. Lots of 'he entered a realm with colors beyond human comprehension' and 'the gore was indescribable and does not bear any attempt to', which btw I see as a cop-out. Particularly because he was so adept at describing horrific scenes in other stories. Several of the stories revolved around people entering dream-lands, so while they were connected, by the end of the book they felt a bit overly familiar. Overall though quite the enjoyable read for a fan of horror.
Profile Image for Edward Taylor.
516 reviews17 followers
April 5, 2018
The second most inspiring series of Lovecraftian work after the Cthulhu Mythos itself, the Dream Cycle includes "The Silver Key, Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, and Through the Gates of the Silver Key" to name a few and connects all the tales of locations mentioned or written in relation to the four regions of the Dreamlands. Highly recommended for those who want to see the "softer" side of HPL where the good guys sometimes win or stay sane long enough to make a difference.
8 reviews
June 4, 2018
I found most of the stories very interesting but it was frustrating when they where uncompleted or finished abruptly.
43 reviews13 followers
April 11, 2012
This is my first experience with Lovecraft. I've long wanted to try him out, and after doing some research, I decided to start with this volume before delving into the Cthulhu mythos (my philosophy, being as always to save the best for last). I plan to follow up with "Tales", which when combined with this apparently contains all the Lovecraft tales of any importance, and read the remainder on the Internet.
At first, I was frankly disappointed. A number of the stories near the beginning were very slight and not very compelling. It was a lot more "fantasy-like" than I was expecting. Not until "The Statement of Randolph Carter" and "The Nameless City" did this collection start picking up steam and coming closer to the Lovecraft I imagined. Still, neither of these are great, but they are interesting.
However, as it moved along, I liked it more and more. You can see Lovecraft's voice emerging as he gets more comfortable and relies less on his favorite authors for inspiration.
One of the main problems of these stories is poor characterization and plotting, something I'm not sure I see improving with later stories. Of course, one doesn't really read these kinds of stories for characters, but the plotting in many of these mainly just consists of rambling journeys through varied setpieces, interspersed with fantastic imagery and events. "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath" is perhaps the best known example, a novelette that follows Randolph Carter for months through incredible dreamscapes where he boards ships, allies with cats and ghouls and just goes from one place to another. However, his final journey beyond the edge of the dream world alone is worth the price of admission. This sequence is one of my favorites and one of Lovecraft's greatest strengths through the collection, the uncanny ability to explore the terrifying unknowns at the edge of reality and the unknowable terrors beyond known reality. Some of the best sections almost reminded me of Jim Woodring's "Frank" comics. (Which you may like if you're into Lovecraft). Lovecraft's description of Azathoth, is especially terrifying and lingers in my mind often. However, whenever Lovecraft lingers too long in the Dreamworld, it can seem almost as mundane as the real world.
Additionally, I found the longest story, "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward", thrilling, especially the middle section including the raid on Curwen's compound, which was incredibly cinematic and vivid and Dr. Willet's exploration of the caverns.
Initially, I thought these stories were completely unrelated to the Cthulhu stories, but reading this it became apparent that all of Lovecraft's stories are linked to each other, if only vaguely.
Strengths of this collection: Accurate depiction of the terrifying illogical nature of dreams (dreams are notoriously hard to capture), vividly imagined imagery, philosophical food for thought on the nature of reality and illusion).
Weaknesses: Weak or nonexistent characterization (although thinly sketched, I did the find the constantly questing Randolph Carter likeable), ramshackle plotting, and a lot of slight unmemorable stories, particularly near the beginning.
On the whole, thoroughly enjoyable. I'm really looking forward to reading more Lovecraft.
Profile Image for Tim Martin.
712 reviews43 followers
October 10, 2020
If you have only ever read H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, with its indescribable horrors, mind blasting terror, fetid Stygian depths, haunted cyclopean ruins, cursed books, ichor, and tentacles, this book may be a bit of a surprise. Though there is still horror lurking in some of the stories in this anthology (and there are still things cyclopean) one also finds friendly creatures, happiness, and beauty, tales of sunset gilded cities, cozy villages, childhood nostalgia, and friendly cats. Though a few stories are dominated by horror, many only have it as side elements, and even in one case the horror of one story is rendered a great deal less horrible by a later story.

Though I can recognize many of the elements of Lovecraft’s writing style in this collection of short stories and novellas – long descriptions, some rather erudite adjectives, and describing events rather than putting the viewer in the midst of a conversation – the style in this anthology is often milder, gentler, poetic, and dreamy. At times the stories, their subjects, setting, and the description, felt like _Kubla Khan_ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge or _ On First Looking into Chapman's Homer_ by John Keats (yay I get to put some of English literatures class in college to use!). With the stories dealing with varying degrees with one of Lovecraft’s creations, the Dreamlands (a Fantasia or Narnia like magical realm, an alternate dimension, formed by and accessible to dreamers on Earth though it has its own inhabitants as well), Lovecraft for the most part in this collection is solidly in the realm of fantasy (and not even necessarily the dark fantasy camp) and the Dreamlands are not a realm of mindless terror, gloom, and despair, but of great beauty (though there are some darker areas in the Dreamlands). Here is a passage from the opening paragraph of _The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath_:

“All golden and lovely it blazed in the sunset, with walls, temples, colonnades and arched bridges of veined marble, silver-basined fountains of prismatic spray in broad squares and perfumed gardens, and wide streets marching between delicate trees and blossom-laden urns and ivory statues in gleaming rows…”

Not exactly Innsmouth as it sounds positively idyllic. At other times some descriptions of the Dreamlands are wondrously exotic in the best possible sense. From the final story in the book, _Through the Gates of the Silver Key_ (cowritten with E. Hoffman Price, the only story in the book written in collaboration):

“He had wished to find the enchanted regions of his boyhood dreams, where galleys sail up the river Ourkranos past the gilded spires of Thran, and elephant caravans tramp through perfumed jungles in Kled, beyond forgotten palaces with veined ivory columns that sleep lovely and unbroken under the moon.”

Nice, and not at all typical Lovecraft, at least from my readings and what popular culture thinks of as being Lovecraftian.

To me the stories of the Dreamlands represent two thematic elements, both related. One, I remember years ago what someone wrote about the DC Comics universe, that Metropolis was one particular city by day, and Gotham is the same city by night. Metropolis is bright, shiny, the future, full of people bustling to work in a thriving, well, metropolis, of modern high rises, while Gotham is crime ridden, dark, shadowy, some sort of Gothic brutalist nightmare with lots of spires and creepy statues. I thought of that reading these stories, that most of Lovecraft’s stories outside of this collection represent the dark side of Lovecraft’s New England home, of slums in Boston, abandoned buildings, overgrown farms, crumbling ruins, creepy old churches, graveyards, and insular hill folk, several of the stories in this book represent the nicer side of the land Lovecraft called home, showing that he saw that there is beauty in the area, whether it is good people (several stories have kind neighbors who at great risk help others) or wonderful historic buildings, rich colonial historical heritage, gorgeous sea coasts, or cities that just look beautiful in the light of a magnificent sunset.

Related to that, there is a definite thread of nostalgia or something similar in the stories, with one story with strong elements of childhood nostalgia, several stories where cats are either beloved companions or in fact saviors, fighting the darkness and in fact triumphing, or in the persona of a reoccurring character, present in a number of stories in this anthology, Randolph Carter, which I understand is widely believed to be a literary alter ego for Lovecraft, a positive, heroic character who goes on great adventures and triumphs again and again despite incredible odds (well heroic for Lovecraft, though Carter does have to be rescued a few times in the stories).

This book is the hopeful Lovecraft, the happy Lovecraft, the not-depressed Lovecraft.

This isn’t to say there aren’t horror stories in the book. _Pickman’s Model_ is definitely horror, as is _The Dreams in the Witch-House_ just to name two, but several I wouldn’t call horror at all. Some stories like _The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath_ have horror elements but even at their scariest are nowhere near the horror of Cthulhu mythos horror.

I liked how in addition to Randolph Carter who appeared prominently or as the main character in a number of stories there were other unifying elements in the series. Richard Upton Pickman, of _Pickman’s Model_ for instance, reappears in _The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath_ and the priest Atal, a relatively minor character in _The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath_, is more prominent in two other stories in this collection _The Cats of Ulthar_ and _The Other Gods_.

This collection has stories that vary tremendously in length, from fragments like _Azathoth_ (barely two pages if that) to _The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath_ (I think it is 86 pages long). Some of the stories are more like rhyme less poetry, heavy mainly on imagery (especially the fragments early on) while a few have a pretty gripping story structure (as far as page turning I think the best of the bunch was _The Case of Charles Dexter Ward_).

Do we get the racist Lovecraft? A little, not a lot in my opinion. A few stories refer to people with African features that didn’t seem to suggest exactly hatred of the people described but it wasn’t flattering, was Othering, insensitive, and wouldn’t fly today. There were in my recollection small elements of much longer stories and nothing like this appeared in the majority of the tales. A few tales had relatively positive portrayals of African-Americans for Lovecraft anyway. The final story outright used the N word I think twice but the character using it wasn’t a good character and that seemed to be a way to present that character as not a good person (at least in part). Though no one called him out on the use of the N word per se, he did get some pretty quick karma for his usage of the racist slur and was seen as a villain in general by the others in the story. I have certainly read much worse as far as racism when it comes to Lovecraft. Each person needs to decide what they think of idea of separating the artist and their art and how comfortable they are with some stories that have these elements. For my part I had long wanted to read _The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath_ and this was my first time doing so.
Profile Image for Liz.
1,713 reviews7 followers
November 25, 2020
There just isn't enough here that really interested me. The narration was good.
Azathoth, 2 stars. An unfinished piece.
The Descendant, 2 stars. Another fragment of a story.
The Thing in the Moonlight, 2 stars. A fragment of a story with bits filled in by another writer.
Polaris, 2 stars. Dream vs. reality, with a star mockingly shining down on the protagonist.
Beyond the Wall of Sleep, 4 stars. So good, but for the class snobbery.
The Doom That Came to Sarnath, 3 stars. A tale of hubris and revenge.
The Statement of Randolph Carter, 4 stars. Creepy goodness, excellent narration.
The Cats of Ulthar, 2.5 stars. A love letter to cat lovers.
Celephais, 3 stars. What is the nature of reality.
From Beyond, 3 stars. A mad scientist story.
Nyarlathotep, 3 stars. Nyarlathotep's introduction.
The Nameless City, 2.5 stars.

The Other Gods, 1 star. Another story of hubris.
Ex Oblivione, 3 stars. A poem. Flirting with death, and dreams, and drugs.
The Quest of Iranon, 1 star.
The Hound, 4 stars. First appearance of the Necronomicon.
Hypnos, 3 star. Dreams, madness, drug addiction, hallucinations, something for everyone.
What the Moon Brings, 2 stars. A scary moon and a walk in the garden.
Pickman's Model, 5 stars. Great.
The Dream Quest of Unknown Kaddath, Soporific.
The Silver Key, 2 stars. Slow, thankfully short.
The Strange High House in the Mist, 2 stars. Boring monotone narration by Tom Weiner.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, DNF
The Dreams in the Witch House, 3 stars. Too long and didn't keep my attention.
Through the Gates of the Silver Key, DNF
Profile Image for Geert Daelemans.
296 reviews6 followers
September 1, 2013
An excellent collection of stories of the macabre

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula and Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are commonly seen as the cornerstones of modern horror. In my opinion Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) must to be added to this list, because horror wouldn't be the same without the influence of this phenomenal writer. One can say that Lovecraft brought the "Dark Monsters" into the genre, take for example the H.R.Gigger creature used in the movie Alien, but this simplification neglects his true talent: composing great atmospheric horror stories.

Although the common threads in this collection are clearly relating to dreams, there is one maybe even more important aspect that returns in all the stories: every main character is obsessively engaged in a personal or even scientific quest that brings him face to face with the most unreal dangers. The eagerness to see the invisible is what links these stories all together. Even if the worst is about to happen to the main character, he just takes that last step because he must know what is crawling behind that wall.

If you love fantasizing about more dimensions and time travel, than this collection is certainly an enticing dip into these mathematical riddles. In addition the stories all weave together, so you get the urge to reread them again after finishing. Don't hesitate to do this because you will get absorbed even more into the surreal mythos of Lovecraft.
Profile Image for arianna.
10 reviews11 followers
June 10, 2009
This book was definitely amazing. Lovecraft was able to weave very frightening and amazing worlds, and the way the editor put them all together was indeed perfect. In some stories then end was rather predictable (because everyone wants to be like Lovecraft) but i still found myself excited to read them. I couldn't give this book 5 stars though because sometimes the difference in ages of writing was hard to grasp. It just seemed t draw on and on during some stories, and others went so fast i could barely keep up. The dream quest was definitely a fast, slow fast fast slow kind of book, but i'm so glad i read this. Anyone who reads any author or knows anyone inspired by this man, should read the Dream Cycle.
Profile Image for Erick Mertz.
Author 20 books13 followers
January 13, 2017
Confession. I have never read "The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward" before and opted to re-read the entire edition here as a primer for that weird tale.

Great stories. Some really esoteric. Some barely "story" but this book is indispensable.

Wow... CDW has already become one of my fave HPL stories, grim, atmospheric and creepy all in one longish read. Everything is there, all of it riveting and thoughtfully paced. I am of the opinion that this could be a good Lovecraft starting point, rather than an end line as it has been for me.

My only issues are the edition: Dreams Of Terror and Death is hardly accurate. I always bristle at the title because it seems a little too shocking for what it is. So many of these stories fit the "weird" better than pure horror.
Profile Image for Zachary Moore.
121 reviews15 followers
July 29, 2011
Lovecraft's dream cycle is part fantasy and part horror, some of the more Dunsanian stories surprised me quite a bit when I first read them as I was expecting a non-stop diet of monsters from Lovecraft. This collection contains the enormously imaginative "Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath" as well as one of favorite Lovecraft stories, "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" which to my mind was Lovecraft's most successful exploration of the theme of intelligences reaching back through time to claim a living victim. Another favorite is "The Strange House in the Mist" which has some of my favorite imagery from a Lovecraft story along with an intriguing conclusion.
Profile Image for Marcos Ibáñez Gordillo.
278 reviews2 followers
March 24, 2021
La verdad es que hay algunos realmente chulos pero la mayoría de la estética ésta del mundo de los sueños no me ha convencido. A continuación los relatos que me he leído:

Más allá del muro del sueño (3/5) Aunque se huela el clasismo que apeste

Los gatos de ulthar (2/5)

Polaris (2/5)

La nave blanca (2/5)

Celephaïs (1/5)

La búsqueda de Iranon (4/5)

La perdición que cayó sobre Sarnath (3/5)

Lo que trae la luna (3/5)

Los otros dioses (1/5) Recomiendo leerlo de todas formas porque tiene info guay para entender los mitos

Ex oblivione (4,5/5) Joder con el nihilismo, fue el que más acongojado me dejó
Profile Image for Bruce.
60 reviews
May 8, 2012
Lovecraft is best known as a master of horror, and while this collection contains a few stories of that sort, it's main focus is on his works of fantasy. While they can still be pretty creepy, Lovecraft's fantasy stories are often beautiful and moving as well. "Celephais" is a great example of this. It's a story about a man who has fallen on hard times and retreats into a world spun in his childhood dreams, where he is the king of a great and beautiful land called Ooth-Nargai. There are many more examples, but I digress. This collection is a must for anyone interested in fantasy.
11 reviews
September 8, 2018
I had heard of Lovecraft for years, about his influence on writers, filmmakers and other artists over the decades, but only recently starting reading his work.
Like all writing, his style won't suit everyone, but from the beginning, I was entranced.
This collection of short stories ranging from fantasy to gothic horror, from"strange fiction" to downright terrifying.
Two of my favorites -- "The Dreams in the Witch-House" and "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward," are nothing less than brilliant.
Can't wait to read the rest of his work!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 197 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.