Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys.
Deep Roots is the third Aphra Marsh story of the mid-century US from the perspective of Lovecraftian “monsters.” While all these tales show a thorough acquaintance with and considerable affection for the whole Lovecraft oeuvre, they each have one or two signal stories to which they refer. In “The Litany of Earth” author Emrys is chiefly working in relation to “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” In Winter Tide she draws on “The Thing on the Doorstep” and “The Shadow Out of Time.” And Deep Roots takes its chief elements from “The Whisperer in Darkness” and “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.”
“The Whisperer in Darkness” is easily one of my favorite HPL stories, and a rarely-credited seminal tale of extraterrestrial invasion. When it comes to Emrys’ re-visioning of the Mi-Go who are the central menace of that source story, she totally nails it. The last time I felt such a vividly ambivalent attraction to a cosmopolitan alien intelligence was for the Multipliers of Ken MacLeod’s Engine City. Emrys’ treatment of the Dreamlands follows that of the recent Arkham Horror novella by Jennifer Brozek (To Ride the Black Wind) and the Dreamland-native Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson. There are no cats in this book, but the ghouls are important and well-conceived.
I didn’t feel overwhelmed or distracted by new characters in Deep Roots, and it offered some satisfying development of the ones established in the earlier stories. I liked it more than Winter Tide, but I’m not sure how it would work as a standalone read. I think it needs its predecessor stories for proper appreciation. I continue to enjoy Emrys’ work in what has been alleged to be the “mythos” of yog-sothothery, which she more realistically terms a “sandbox.”