Friday, September 21, 2012
At the Mountains of Madness by H.P Lovecraft
I'd never read any H.P Lovecraft. I know about Cthulu and have a basic idea of what he wrote. I think most fantophiles, do, although Lovecraft tends to be classified as horror more than fantasy. That's one very good thing about the list. It gives me the opportunity to read and try classic authors that I may otherwise never get to. That it provides the suggestion of what work to read is also useful.
At the Mountains of Madness, while it was written after a lot of the Cthulu work had already been published, is a good entry to the concept of the Old Ones, who Lovecraft's writings credit with creating a pre human civilisation on this planet.
At 113 pages At the Mountains of Madness is more of a novella than a full length novel. It doesn't actually read like a novel, either.
It's presented as an account of a group of explorers looking for our prehistoric heritage in the Antarctic. There's very little dialog and this does make it a little hard to get to know or empathise with the characters.
I have to admit that working with in the constraints of how he chose to write the piece Lovecraft did an amazing job in two respects. He really gives the impression of a scientific exploration, it gets a little technical and dry in parts, but it creates the fantasy very well.
The other thing was the feeling that things were all going to go badly very quickly. He just kept ratcheting up the tension until I was almost reading through my fingers. Of course things did turn to complete and utter terror, but it was so well well built.
I liked the descriptions and ideas behind the Old Ones and their servants, too.
Although I know it's science fiction and set on another planet I kept thinking of the recent film Prometheus, it's rather like that in concept and execution. The one novelised idea that it also recalled for me was Julian May's Saga of the Exiles, which also deals with how our civilisation 'really' began.