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CBR4 #44: The Road to Madness by H. P. Lovecraft

This book was my first experience with Lovecraft, and I'm not sure I'm all that thrilled with him. It consists of a number of short stories, spanning the length of his career. They're all supposed to be dark and spooky, though some are more successful than others.

There were a few stories I liked. "Herbert West: Reanimator" was pretty good--it's a tale of an experimental scientist gone made--but it was clearly originally published as a serial, since at the beginning of each section the author goes back and recaps everything that JUST HAPPENED which gets a little annoying. However, a lot of the stories were either unnecessarily long ("At the Mountains of Madness") or not very interesting. He also, earlier in his career, had a tendency to pull the "Up the tension, up the tension, up the tension...AND THEN IT TURNED OUT HIS MOTHER WAS AN ALBINO GORILLA THE WHOLE TIME! The End" bit more than was acceptable. I mean, I like a good twist ending, but it's a trick that can be easily overused.

On the whole, I was not wildly impressed with this collection. Although it definitely had some cool moments, I think this is a genre that was done better before by Poe. Also, I didn't feel that any of the stories contained any real character development. The characters were put into situations mostly because that was where the author wanted them. I didn't find myself particularly interested in or sympathetic toward any of them (with the possible exception of the narrator of the "Herbert West" story.) I know you might say there isn't room in short stories for character development, but maybe if he'd spent less time endlessly describing echoing chambers and tentacled monsters he might have been able to create some more interesting characters.

Anyway, it's one of those books you should read as an introduction to help recognize the influence on other authors, but I don't feel the need to rush out and find any more of Lovecraft's work.

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