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The Road To Madness - H.P. Lovecraft Book Review

H.P. Lovecraft The Road To Madness Book Review


Spoiler Free Review: H.P Lovecraft was a vile, racist, piece of shit. But, he was an incredibly influential writer, heavily influenced by Edgar Allen Poe and the inspiration for many successful modern horror writers (such as: Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Clive Barker). I choose to vote with my wallet and not financially support any abusers, bigots, or otherwise shitty people. And this was no exception, because H.P. Lovecraft is dead and I bought the book from a second-hand store (owned by a very nice woman). For those reasons, and because I have a particular interest in learning how to write effective horror, I wanted to read this book and now that I have I want to share my thoughts. This is a collection of 29 short stories in every different genre of horror. Lovecraft was most famous for Cosmic Horror and the stories that include those aspects were some of the most memorable (list of stories in the spoiler review below). This book includes a lot of Lovecraft’s early works and some unfinished ones, making the reading experience disjointed. Most of the stories shared one thing in common, they had detailed and interesting descriptions and settings. The worldbuilding is detailed and thought out. The imagery and descriptions are vivid. Even if I wasn’t interested in a story I would still think back and reflect on the setting that Lovecraft described. Unfortunately, it was frequent that I would be immersed in the setting but completely lack interest in the story and characters. A lot of the characters were simple and hard to root for, and the stories were predictable. This book was pretty interesting and a lot of the technical elements are going to inspire my writing. But, the racism in this book is hard to ignore. It felt like Lovecraft would use someone's background as a way to add fear but almost 100 years later it just comes off as cartoonishly bigoted. I believe that a fearful person is likely to learn a love for horror. In this, Lovecraft makes it abundantly clear in this novel what/who it is that he feared. I would only recommend this book for research or study purposes, if you’re interested in writing horror or learning why H.P. Lovecraft was so (in)famous. RIP (Rot In Piss). 3.5/5

Spoiler Review: Reading this collection of short stories makes me really interested in reading Edgar Allen Poe. Poe’s works are mentioned in a few of the stories and clearly is a source of inspiration for Lovecraft. But the racism completely removes the reader from the story, and this happens in about half the stories. I understand that it was a different time but even by those standards Lovecraft was hateful. I also had issues with the varying lengths of stories, many of them were too short to get into any sort of rhythm so the reading was slow. But, the longer stories would suffer from slow pacing so they were equally slow to read. Also because of the dated and elaborate word choices. One of the most interesting stories was The Terrible Old Man which was only a page and a half long. I also found the characters to be lacking personality and dimension. Another great story was the Harry Houdini one and I think this is because it was the first story where I knew for sure I was supposed to be rooting for the protagonists success. The reanimator story for example, the protagonist didn’t have any redeeming qualities so I didn’t really care that he survived. I figure the only reason he did was to make logical sense about how the tale survived to make it into this book. Speaking of, I found it a little tedious how every story started with “I dare not speak of the horrors of that night that I barely survived except through this journal.” The preface even mentions how cliche Lovecraft's writing is. But, the place where this book really shines is the settings of the stories. The buildings and landmarks that Lovecraft describes are terrifying without any action needing to happen. Most of the stories take place in long abandoned locations with no threat of danger or surprise but somehow that makes them more ominous, like condemned buildings. It makes you feel small and insignificant, at the mercy of ancient gods who could return at any moment. There is also a great variety in the settings so that each of the stories is able to feel unique and inspire different types of fear. When I think back on the stories I don’t think about the characters or the plot, I just picture the massive spires and sunken cities and my imagination runs wild with the sort of terrors that would take place there. In my reading so far, no other author has been able to create such vivid settings. One aspect that I underappreciated was the worldbuilding across Lovecraft stories. It wasn’t until one of the later stories that I realized I had seen the name Arkham multiple times. I believe that Lovecraft has created a pretty expansive lore that stretches across his works. This is something that definitely adds to the experience for me but I don’t know enough about at this point. Most interesting stories: Imprisoned with the Pharaohs (w/ Harry Houdini), The Terrible Old Man, Herbert West - Reanimator, The White Ship, The Transition of Juan Romero, Mountains of Madness, In the Walls of Eryx. The Temple. I think a good book is one that you think about frequently, this definitely fits the bill. But, it has a lot of issues. 3.5/5

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