Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Review: Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities
Julia Morgan aka Morgan Scorpion sent us this review of "Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities". The collection has been published by H. Harksen Productions is available via lulu.com and amazon.com.
Whenever you crack open an anthology, you know that you are in for a variegated experience, there will be some good, some bad, and some indifferent. Occasionally you will find something wonderful. occasionally you will find something unreadable. If you are lucky, the good will outnumber the bad, if you are really lucky, you will find something wonderful.
With Henrik Sandbeck Harksen's Urban Cthulhu: Nightmare Cities, I got REALLY lucky.
Not only did the good outnumber the bad, but there were TWO that I considered wonderful. The first of these is Peter Rawlik's "The Statement of Frank Elwood". I am cautious about stories that feature characters that Lovecraft created, as often you get a depiction that clashes with the original. Not so here. Frank Elwood was Walter Gilman's friend and fellow-student in Dreams in the Witch-House; and you can bet your soul that he knows more about the goings-on in that dreadful place than Gilman did. This story fills in some of Keziah Mason's backstory; and enriches that with a special guest apperance from Someone who shall here remain nameless. This story is a rare treat for Lovecraft fans, and worth the price of the book by itself.
The second wonderful story is "The Screamer" by T. E. Grau. I shall not spoil anyone in this review, suffice to say that the main character is obsessed with finding out who is making that awful screaming at his place of work, a screaming that no-one else seems to hear. I spent a lot of time trying to second-guess the storyline, and failed to do so. Epically. The denouement was so much better than anything I imagined.
"Dancer of the Dying" by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, is set in India and makes me long for more stories of the same kind. Jayash has a style that is reminiscent both of Ramsey Campbell and Peter Ackroyd. Add this to a haunting story, and you have magic. Also haunting, but in a different way, is Architecht's Eyes by Thomas Stromsholt in which the protagonist finds himself marginalised by poverty into a liminal neighbourhood, with a rather unique building that simultaneously attracts and repels him. Like Robert Blake in The Haunter of the Dark, he is compelled to find out more about it, at whatever risk.
"Carcosapunk" is a chilling tale of alienation that you would expect from any title that references Him Who Is Not To Be Named. And if you've ever heard odd noises emanating from a neighbour's appartment, "The Neighbours Upstairs" will have a special resonance for you. Both enjoyable tales, well told.
Ian Davey's tale "In the Shadow of Bh'ylun" reads like a fragment of a larger work, and anyone who has read E.P. Berglund's wonderful repository of Lovecraftian horror "Nightscapes" will recognise some of the names. I find the ending a bit weak and inconclusive, which is another way of saying - it needs to be longer. The shadowy figure of Francesci, who's own version of the Necronomicon inadvertently brought this about, is one I'd like to read more about.
I have a strong dislike for the "hard-boiled" school of horror writing. A litany of obscenity and atrocity does not make a good reading experience for me. But for those of you who like such things, you will be in heaven when you read the stories of Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. and Robert Tangiers.
Urban Cthulhu has something for everyone, so long as they like their horror flavoured with Lovecraft. It's not perfect, but it is worth buying. Well worth buying.