Column: Cthulhu Eats the World: Dreaming in Darkness

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French, Aaron J.; Chamberlin, Adrian; Green, Jonathan; Prescott, John. Dreaming in Darkness. World Horror Con 2013 edition. Hardcover, $25.00.

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It is a great time to be a lover of Lovecraftian weird fiction. It seems like you can’t toss a squamous tentacle without hitting a new collection of Cthulhu Mythos fiction. Many are great, a few are misses, and Dreaming in Darkness is the newest. Is this latest offering a tome worthy of praise and sacrifice, or is it something better left dead, dreaming and forgotten? Well, grab a flashlight and an Elder Sign or two. We’re about to enter the Darkness where unmentionable things Dream.

First, a note: I am reading from the 2013 World Horror Convention edition. It is a beautiful hardcover with a great illustration on the dust jacket and a few cool color pieces of art sprinkled between the pages. As of this review, the only widely available copy of this book that I know about is the Kindle version on Amazon. I hear that another hardcover version will be out soon and perhaps a paperback after that, but I’m not sure of the date. So, if you have an eReader that can handle Kindle books, by all means go to Amazon and get yourself a copy for a very reasonable four bucks. That’s just a buck a novella and that’s one hell of a bargain.

Oops, I guess I just tipped my hand as to how I feel about this book. Yeah, I do that sometimes when I get excited. But by all means, keep reading. After all, there’s so much Darkness to be explored here.

I must admit, before reading this chunky collection of novellas, I was only acquainted with the work of one of the four authors, and that was Aaron French, whose tales I always enjoy. So, thankfully for me, this tome eased me into the Darkness with familiar and fine fright fiction of Mr. French’s “The Order.” This story begins with a murder, a museum, and art, but trust me – it is not the Mythos as seen through The Da Vinci Code’s prism. Thank God. It does have maliciously-researched history on the occult activities of the Rosicrucians, a great investigative protagonist, and a frightening mystery to unravel that ultimately leads to the ancient evil of the Great Old Ones. There is a lot to like in this story, so much so that I am loathe to spoil any of it, so I won’t other than the few hints I’ve already dropped here.

The next tale collected here is “Shadrach Besieged” by Adrian Chamberlin. This story also dips into the past, beginning with the fall of Jerusalem during one of the Crusades and then jumping ahead to the English Civil War of the 1640s. Once again, here the reader will find history tainted by cosmic dread in the Lovecraftian vein, secreted treasures, military action, and an evil forest where not every dead tree is what is seems. If you know what I’m hinting at with that last remake, then you’ve read too many Mythos stories and you also know that you’re in for a treat.

“The Serpent’s Egg,” by Jonathan Green uses one Bram Stoker’s lesser-known tales, The Lair of the White Worm, as a jumping-off point, and even includes a bit of Ken Russell’s 1988 surreal cinematic adaptation of that story in the mix. Right there, Mr. Green’s story got some early points with me, as I love books and I love movies, so when a tale combines the two, I’m usually a happy camper. Here, a writer goes to the north of England, looking into matters firsthand of the legend that was the inspiration of Stoker’s story, the Lambton Worm. Obviously, with a name like that, all sorts of Mythos connections leap to mind and thankfully, this tale doesn’t disappoint or telegraph any of its punches too much.

The last novella in the book is by John Prescott and is called “New Heavens.” It is also the most unique. In most Mythos fiction, the Old Ones are always trying to break back into, or just wake up in, our reality and it is up to the heroes to keep that from happening. Mr. Prescott takes that idea and turns it on its head when Earth is sucked into the dimension of the eldritch evil. Now, a trio of desperate and fearful heroes must find a way to get everyone back to their own space and time, lest all of Humanity become Lunchables for unnamable horrors. I really liked this twist on the usual take of Lovecraftian horror, as reading something new is always refreshing.

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Final Verdict: So, there you go: four meaty Mythos stories for the sanity-smashing price of just four bucks. Do I really have to sell you on that? A large coffee from Starbucks costs more than that and is nowhere near as good. Go now and get it, read it, love it. You can thank me later for the heads up on it.

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