Lovecraft is one of the formative influences on later horror. His style is in transition from the long-windedness of the Victorians towards the brevity of his contemporary H. G. Wells.
This book tells of an Antarctic expedition which discovers traces of a lost civilization in an awesomely high mountain range. It has all the classic Atlantean elements: the highly intelligent Old Ones become decadent and are finally overwhelmed by a combination of the harsh elements and Shoggoth beasts that they have genetically engineered to be their slaves. The narrator, a polar scientist, describes his investigation of the lost city of the Old Ones in which he and his partner discover far more than any scientists could do in less than 24 hours, mostly from what must be a great number of highly detailed sculptures left by the Old Ones. It is all a bit far-fetched.
There is a fantastic amount of description about the lost city which serves virtually no plot purpose. The entire plot could be summarised ina few pages. The rest is just padding.
For horror effect, Lovecraft relies on his own failure to describe things. Heights and distances are 'immeasurable'. Horrors are 'nameless'; numbers 'incalculable', reality 'ineluctable', odours are 'unknown'. This is a clever technique but he uses it so much that it becomes almost a parody of itself.
He also refers back to his imaginary world repeatedly. Thus he references the Necronomicon, written by the Mad Arab, again and again. Not subtle!
I suspect this book was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket which ends in a strangely warm Antarctic with a tribe of hostile men.
Even at short novella length this dragged. September 2014; 139 pages
- Having reviewed over 1100 books on this blog, I have now written one myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. It is available on Kindle through Amazon. Read it and find out whether this critic can write. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57