Lair of the Geek

Bringing you all the geek stuff

Black Wings of Cthulhu: Twenty tales of Lovecraftian Terror

Edited by S.T. Joshi
Review by Ian Clarke.
Publisher: Titanbooks

What is this that stands before me? I write this review while listening to the eponymous track by Black Sabbath…It’s ominous opening lyric invokes the same otherworldly horror achieved time and again by HP Lovecraft, works of whom form the inspiration for this collection of short stories.

Before getting into the stygian creeping terror contained within these frayed, tattered pages (Ok, you’ve got me…The pages are just fine, but give a guy some creative licence?) I feel I must congratulate S.T. Joshi as all the stories contained within this collection are top notch!

Each story happily (Or should that be menacingly?) stands on its own two feet (tentacles?), and a wide variety of writing and storytelling styles are used throughout the collection…From first person diary style accounts, to pulpy third person film noir.

The common theme that courses through the veins and inhabits the core of every story is the element that always made Lovecraft’s own tales so haunting and deeply unsettling…Rarely, if at all are we told directly of the creatures that lurk on the edges of the plot. We’re left to fill in the blanks with our own imagination, which of course is the writer’s most powerful weapon! Nothing can scare a person as much as the monsters they conjure from their own minds! A prime example is Laird Barron’s story “The Broadsword” in which retired surveyor Pershing Dennard is taunted by voices and shadowy figures that lurk within the muggy, dark apartment complex where he has chosen to spend his retirement…While reading the story I found myself half expecting to see the same shadowy figures at the end of darkened corridors…

Most of the stories are set in the modern day, yet they still ably manage to summon the same images of otherworldly entities as Lovecraft himself drew forth back in the early 1900’s. It may be that in a world where so much has been explained and so many mysteries have been solved, that the readers mind seeks the unknown even more fervently…I know personally I found the familiarity of the modern day settings and everyday protagonists to be a very compelling foil for the authors tales of the mysterious lurkers on the edge of our world. The closest any of the tales comes to actually describing the shadowy antagonists within is Michael Shea’s “The Copping Squid” where recovering alcoholic Ricky Deuce confronts the giant cephalopodan eye…But even then, he leaves with only the tiniest inkling of understanding.

To say I thoroughly enjoyed this collection would be an understatement of epic proportions. Each story is worthy of the admission fee alone, so collected here in this tome (book seems a wholly inappropriate word when dealing with Cthulhu Mythos) they are entirely worthy of your time! I can’t help but think that many Hollywood film-makers could learn a valuable lesson from the less is more approach to horror presented here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *