If there is a writer whose influence far outstrips his accomplishments, it is H.P. Lovecraft. When he was good, he was very good. A handful of his stories, The Colour Out Of Space, The Call of Cthulhu, hit like a bomb. This cosmic grasp of horror makes you feel the weight of the uncaring cosmos. Unfortunately he was not that good that often. He did, however, help create or define a style of genre of fiction that would be mined by many writers. This anthology, Lovecraft’s Monsters, edited by the prolific Ellen Datlow, is not the first based on Lovecraftian themes, but it is the best that I have read so far.
The range of the works is impressive, and the variety of authorial tone and voice is as well. There are even a hand-full of poems, all better that Lovecraft, as well. The connective thread that binds these stories together is supposed to be literally, Lovecraft's Monsters, and there is a clever little index explaining the beasties, but it really isn't necessary.
Ms. Datlow has always had a way with anthologies, and the list of the contributors is strong. The least effective stories are still solid, and the best are exceptional. The best, to me are Bulldozer by Laird Barron, a potent mix of 19th century noir, hard-boiled pulp, and hallucinogenic horror: The Bleeding Shadow, where Joe. R. Lansdale, one of the best genre-jumping authors now writing fiction mixes up thirties-style noir with Delta Blues: and The Same Deep Waters As You by Brian Hodge. This one has secret government bases, an animal behavioral expert, and Deep Ones. Other stories by Neil Gaiman, John Langan, and Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley are nearly as good. All of the stories share a Lovecrafty vibe but the breadth of styles and modes of execution are very broad, and go to show just how far the "literary horror" boom has taken us.
On top of all that it looks like a beautiful book, with evocative illustrations for each story, and several creepy drawings spread here and there. Unfortunately my reading kindle kind of lessened their impact. Stefan Dziemianowicz has an insightful foreword, and Ms. Datlow chips in with a solid introduction. So I am telling you now, in the name of Yog-Sothoth, get this book, and prepare to lose some sleep.