Book Reviews Dark Fantasy Horror Short Stories

Acolytes of Cthulhu by Robert M. Price



The true genius of H.P. Lovecraft is not that he created one of the premiere horror sub-genres out there, but that he did it in such a way that it possesses virtually limitless storytelling potential. Acolytes of Cthulhu, which is edited by Robert M. Price, embraces that potential with a collection of short stories written by a variety of authors, some of whom I knew well but many others which were first time reads for me. Like any such collection, the quality of each story varies, though one hopes the editor helped to normalize this so that overall the reader is left with a good impression of the collection as a whole. As one might tell fell from the high rating I gave this book, I found this to very much be the case.

Noted Lovecraftian scholar R.M.Price assembles this unique Lovecraft-influenced collection of twenty-eight rare tales, from such diverse authors as Neil Gaiman, Jorges Luis Borges, Manly Wade Wellman, and Gustaf Meyrink. Spanning from the 1930s to the 1990s, this kaleidoscopic collection is a triumph of interdimensional threats, ritual magic, and cosmic horrors.

Any Lovecraft aficionado will find some familiar concepts here. The Old Ones are ever waiting to return to Earth to once more exert their dominance and mastery over her peoples, so in this collection you’ll find stories of acolytes (thus the title) practicing their dark arts in secrecy until some poor, unsuspecting fool (or family member) unwittingly offers themselves up as a sacrifice or until some dark legacy is revealed and they are brought (or dragged ) into the fold. Without exception, I found the stories entertaining and in many cases engrossing. I simply love to become immersed in the Lovecraftian mythos with all of its ancient and dark attributes. So much so that I’m thinking of revisiting some of the other books I’ve read previously that were written by the master himself.

I’m not going to go story by story with this review, but rather I will highlight a few I enjoyed the most. Doom of the House of Duryea by Earl Pierce, Jr. is a chilling tale of misdirection where a family legacy comes to fruition despite the best efforts of father and son to prevent it. The Seventh Incantation by Joseph Payne Brennan starts as a somewhat typical Lovecraft story about blood sacrifice and the lust for power, but it ends with a bit of a twist that I found amusing. Out of the Jar by Charles R. Tanner begins, “We all have friends we would like to see stuffed into a jar…” It takes off from there. The Eye of Horus by Steffan B. Aletti tells the tale of an expedition to lost ruins that ends badly. Finally, there is the headliner of this collection, Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar by Neil Gaiman. This last story is every bit Lovecraft in its temperament but told with the whimsical undertones of which Gaiman is well known. It’s a worthy send off for a very good roundup of classic Lovecraftian tales.

There are so many books in the Cthulhu mythos that it can sometimes be hard to find the diamonds in the rough. If you’re looking for a collection that leans more towards the classic style of Lovecraft then I think Acolytes of Cthulhu is a worthy addition to your TBR list.

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