At the Mountains of Madness

January 29, 2018 at 5:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

madnessAt the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft


It’s OK to appreciate Lovecraft’s influence on horror and not actually like his stories, right? I mean, I like his ideas, and he has a way with atmosphere, but reading his stories is more like reading a scientific paper than it is reading a work of fiction. I’ve tried reading his original works when I read the more recent, revisionist versions of this stories (The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe and The Ballad of Black Tom, for example), but I just can’t do it. I get bored and distracted, and before I know it, I’m waking up from a nap.

At the Mountains of Madness was an audiobook deal, and I thought, Maybe this is how I can appreciate Lovecraft more, and it helped. I find I can pay better attention to nonfiction audiobooks than fiction audiobooks, so Lovecraft’s style seemed to be a good fit. The thing is, it still doesn’t elevate the story above anything than what it is, which is a long, rather rambling telling of the history of his entire mythos from a different perspective.

Don’t get me wrong: As a look into Lovecraft’s imagination and how he created his Great Old Ones, it’s a fascinating piece of work. It just doesn’t do much for me as a story. Ostensibly, the story is about an expedition in Antarctica that goes awry, with half of the team going missing after discovering something unspeakable beneath the ice. You’d think that would be the focus of the story — the search for an ultimate finding of the missing team — but no, that’s just window dressing to what Lovecraft really wants to tell us, which is anything and everything about his creatures.

In addition, the story is told from the perspective of one of the survivors of the expedition, who descends into the mysterious, subterranean city beneath Antarctica in search of the other party. They only spend one day in the city, but while they’re down there, they find drawings on the wall that tell a history of the city, and boy howdy are those drawings specific. The narrator tells us minute details of this old society, even speaking to motivations and conclusions, despite the fact that they’ve dated the society to at least 500 million years old (at least). So in one day, they’re able to learn all about this ancient society, while also avoiding some kind of gelatinous subway and blind albino subterranean penguins.

(Now, I read a lot of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, so there’s a lot I can accept without too much disbelief. Cosmic horrors? Sure. Mountain ranges in Antarctica taller than Everest? Yeah, okay. Blind albino subterranean penguins? Eh, not so much. Authors can play around with real things to make them unusual or spooky, but there’s an uncanny valley that gets crossed when you try to make something out of something too mundane. Penguins was it for me.)

So, yeah, I can appreciate Lovecraft, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him (even when overlooking the fact that he was a racist and overall horrible person). I’m content to read the stories other people wrote using his ideas, and reading works about his mythos, but I’m going to stop bothering with his actual fiction. It’s just not my thing at all.

Started: November 6, 2017
Finished: November 9, 2017


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