Haggopian and Other Stories (book, Brian Lumley, 2009)
From SFX 192.
THREE AND A HALF STARS
Brian Lumley/Solaris/606 pages/£7.99
Part two of a comprehensive collection covering Brian Lumley’s Cthulhu Mythos short fiction.
Of all those who followed in HP Lovecraft’s footsteps embroidering the Cthulhu Mythos built from his work after his death, Lumley is the most prolific and the most consistent. There’s a lot of creepy fun to be had herein.
In enjoying Lumley, it is imperative to leave aside that much of the ‘Mythos’ as coherent universe was the work of publisher August Derleth. Derleth pretty much single-handedly saved HP for future generations, but in doing so cast a more occult-magical light on the material where religion plays a greater role, overpowering the rather science-fictional nature of Lovecraft’s originals. Lumley’s stories are set firmly in Derleth’s milieu, so it is both unfair and unwise to compare him to Lovecraft.
A crucial departure from Lovecraft is that his characters fight back (like his hero Titus Crow, who crops up several times in this collection). In this way he has an affinity with the work of Dennis Wheatley and his anti-Satanic occultists, and indeed a further distancing factor is the very Britishness of these stories. Lovecraft affected a faux Englishness, this here’s the real deal.
Lumley can strike fear from what often is predictable material, but much is samey. The title story – man bitten by weird eel undergoes transformation into Lovecraftian ‘Deep One’ type aqua-freak, is but one of several similar. It’s when Lumley’s furthest away from Lovecraft that his scares are the best – ‘Aunt Hester’ for example, is a fine, Roald Dahlian tale of ill-used telepathy. He also has a surprising flair for Clark Ashton Smith-type sword and sorcery, much in evidence here with ‘Curse of The Golden Guardians’ and others.
The sheer number of stories – 24 – presented make it more fun than the novella collection that preceded it, and great value too.
Did you know?
Lumley makes good use of the bleak northern moors, an area of the country he is familiar with, being from County Durham.