You can always count on Ellen Datlow to put together a good anthology! As with any collection, I personally like some stories more than others, but this is definitely recommended: not just for Lovecraft fans, but for any reader of horror and dark fantasy.
***** Only the End of the World Again by Neil Gaiman
A bad-ass werewolf visits Innsmouth, and gets mixed up in more than he bargained for. Reminded me a bit of ‘The Wicker Man,’ with extra paranormal elements. Humorous without being ‘light,’ Gaiman’s sincere love for Lovecraft shines through here.
**** Bulldozer by Laird Barron
A bad-ass Pinkerton agent travels West, in search of a circus strongman who’s on the lam, suspected of multiple murders – and, more importantly, of stealing an ancient book on demonology from none other than P.T. Barnum. The premise isn’t something that sounds like it’d be up my alley, but Barron really pulls it off. His Old West has a very ‘Deadwood’ feel to it that I enjoyed.
*** Red Goat Black Goat by Nadia Bulkin
Some kids get a nice magical nanny like Mary Poppins. And some kids get a magical nanny who’s actually half nanny-goat and all terrifying. The Javanese setting here is a nice touch; though I don’t know if the story is based on actual Indonesian myth as well as the Cthulhu mythos.
**** The Same Deep Waters as You by Brian Hodge
The popular TV host of ‘The Animal Whisperer’ is recruited by the US military and bundled off to a Guantanamo-style island, where ‘enemy combatants’deemed a threat to National Security have been held secretly – for the past century. These ‘mutants’ were captured in a raid on Innsmouth. The TV personality’s assignment? To learn to communicate with these fish-men. I had some doubts about the modern setting, but it’s done well. This story does a remarkably good job of capturing Lovecraft’s exact feeling toward his fish-men – a hard-to-pin-down mix of repulsion, horror, respect and sympathy.
** A Quarter to Three by Kim Newman
This one fell flat, for me. The story aims at humor, depicting a distraught pregnant teen who comes into a desolate all-night diner to meet her lover. The diner is in Innsmouth, so you can guess the reveal…
** The Dappled Thing by William Browning Spencer
A too-self-conscious steampunk story of British colonialism. An adventurer is sent to retrieve a wealthy aristocrat’s wayward granddaughter from the savage jungles. The Brits’ tentacled mechanical traveling machine tangles with a mysterious aquatic monster, and a narrow escape is made – or is it?
*** Inelastic Collisions by Elizabeth Bear
A couple of fallen angels (who seem a lot more like monsters) bewail their incarnate state, and seek their prey in urban pool halls… until they encounter a pool shark who may be more than he seems.
** Remnants by Fred Chappell
Lovecraft is ‘cleaned up’ for the ‘middle-grades’ in this post-apocalyptic sci-fi novella. Too long, too trite, the portrayal of the psychic autistic child was just annoying. It didn’t have the ‘feel’ of Lovecraft’s mythos at all.
*** Love is Forbidden, We Croak & Howl by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Unusual – both for this anthology and for Kiernan. It’s humorous! Forbidden attraction between an Innsmouth fish-woman and an inhuman ghoul…
**** The Sect of the Idiot by Thomas Ligotti
The first few times I read short stories from Ligotti, I was actually under the impression that he was a contemporary of Lovecraft. He has that old-fashioned, circumnambulating and understated approach to horror (paired with a good vocabulary.) I enjoy it. Of all the stories in this volume, this one definitely comes the closest to resembling an actual Lovecraft story. A solitary man in a strange town… a bizarre dream, a seemingly random encounter, and of course, chthonic, alien forces.
*** Jar of Salts by Gemma Files
** Black is the Pit From Pole to Pole by Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley
Frankenstein’s monster, on his flight to the Arctic, discovers that the hollow Earth theory is factual, and goes on a strange rampage through subterranean realms. Overly ambitious, throws together too many disparate elements, and goes on too long for what it is.
*** Waiting at the Crossroads Motel by Steve Rasnic Tem
An abusive, nearly subhuman man, who’s never known his father, is drawn by strange urges to bring his family to a remote and dilapidated motel. And then, other guests start filtering in… guests that all bear an odd, familial resemblance to one another.
*** I’ve Come to Talk with you Again by Karl Edward Wagner
A group of writers meet for their regular reunion, a pub night. One of them, the most successful, seems vigorous and preternaturally young. The others: old before their time, creaky and querulous. Some have died since their last meeting. Is there something more sinister than coincidence here?
**** The Bleeding Shadow by Joe R. Lansdale
Excellent noir horror with a 1930s (?) jazz setting. A private investigator is begged by a beautiful woman to see what’s happened to her brother – a talented jazz musician but a freeloader – who’s unexpectedly gone missing. The only thing she knows is that he’s mailed her a deeply eerie recording. She recognizes her brother’s voice, but the music is like nothing on earth. The narrator tracks him down – but there’s a good reason that he’d left town.
*** That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable by Nick Mamatas
Some teenagers hanging out get gotten by the unspeakable.
*** Haruspicy by Gemma Files
**** Children of the Fang by John Langan
Ooh, nice one. A very well-realized horror story of two siblings who gradually uncover the secrets that their grandfather has held since his work, many years ago, as a contractor in the Middle East. Rich characterization, and a good job of creating a legally-blind protagonist.
Copy provided by NetGalley and Tachyon Publications. Thanks! My opinions, as always, are solely my own.