The Cthulhu Cycle

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Cthulhu Cycle: Thirteen Tentacles of Terror edited by Robert M Price.

Consistent with the general plan of the series of Lovecraftian “Cycle Books” in which this book occurs, sage editor Robert M. Price here collects precursors and successors together with “The Call of Cthulhu” itself, and offers some entertaining commentary.

The forerunners are an especially interesting set, including one reproduced in Price’s introduction that doesn’t get its own entry in the table of contents for the volume: Tennyson’s poem “The Kraken.” Dunsany’s “A Shop in Go-by Street” is included as the story mentioning sleeping gods that was probably a proximate inspiration for Lovecraft in writing “The Call of Cthulhu.” And I was very interested in the M.R. James story “Count Magnus,” less for it’s influence on HPL than on Thelemic adept Jack Parsons, who seems to have found in it the germ of his idea of the Black Pilgrimage.

“The Call of Cthulhu” itself needs no review from me. If you haven’t read it, you’re missing a story that helped to develop the genre as surely as Frankenstein or Dracula did. I am even tempted to credit it further, and suggest that it’s perspective is as symptomatic of the 20th century West as was Pico della Mirandola’s “Oration on the Dignity of Man” of Quattrocento Italy.

Predictably, the more recent materials are somewhat more varied in quality. Several of them were enjoyable reads flawed by weak endings. My two favorites were “Recrudescence,” in which Leonard Carpenter pits a paleontologist against petrochemical companies and eco-cultists, and Steven Paulsen’s “In the Light of the Lamp,” which brings a young stoner couple to no good end. [via]