For about a year now I have been reading through a copy of H. P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction. As you would imagine, this is an omnibus that collects most of H. P. Lovecraft’s fiction; it excludes collaborative works. This is the first time I have read through the man’s work, and I am, for the most part, enjoying it a great deal. Lovecraft had a wonderful imagination, not to mention, at times, a gruesome one.
Being halfway through the stories, I thought I would look back over a few of my favorites. Lovecraft was prolific, but I wouldn’t classify everything he wrote as enjoyable. These are just a few of the stories I have enjoyed from the first half of his career.
- The Statement of Randolph Carter – Randolph Carter gives testimony regarding his friend Harley Warren. Warren had some interesting theories regarding human decomposition, and he decided to engage in a bit of grave robbing to test these theories. As you can imagine, things go horribly wrong.
- The Terrible Old Man – A group of young thugs decide to rob the home of a mysterious old man. Unfortunately for them, they were unaware of the rumors surrounding the old man, rumors which prompted the townsfolk to avoid him.
- The Cats of Ulthar– When a “caravan of strange wanderers” comes to town, a horrid old couple take an interest in one of the strangers’ cats. Things don’t go well for the cat. Soon after, things really don’t go well for the old couple.
- The Temple– A routine u-boat patrol grows mysterious as one-by-one the crew begin fear they are being watched by something in the ocean. The Lieutenant-Commander does his best to maintain order, but the u-boat soon loses power and begins to sink toward the ocean floor.
- From Beyond– Metaphysical researcher Crawford Tillinghast has proven the theories that caused his peers and friends to laugh at him: the world is filled with creatures beyond our sight; they float around us and through us.
- Celephais – In this incredible story which captured my imagination, a man returns in his dreams, night after night, to a wonderful, magical kingdom. Unfortunately, as he grows older, he finds his dreams return to this land less and less. He decides to return again, no matter what the cost.
- The Picture in the House! – In this darkly hilarious story, a researcher looks for refuge for the night in a house whose owner has a dark secret which was inspired by a horrific book.
- The Nameless City – An archaeologist finds ruins in a Middle Eastern desert. A mysterious wind leads him to an underground passage filled with ethereal horrors.
- The Outsider – After what seems like countless ages of imprisonment, a man finds his way out of a deserted castle and tries to find signs of human life.
- The Music of Erich Zann – This is possibly my favorite story of Lovecraft’s early work, and it is every bit as wonderful as The Temple. The narrator recounts a time when he lived on a street that he can now no longer find, and of the mysterious Erich Zann, whose strange music seems to have an otherworldly audience.
- Herbert West: Reanimator – While not the best story of Lovecraft’s career (but certainly not the worst), I love this story because of its understated dark humor. This is Lovecraft’s take on Frankenstein.
- The Rats in the Wall – One of Lovecraft’s more thematically disturbing works, this story has one of Lovecraft’s recurring tropes: the last of a line learning the dark secret of his family.
- In the Vault – This is one of Lovecraft’s more conventional ghost stories. It deals with vengeance from beyond the grave, albeit with a darkly comic reveal at the end of the story.
There are many others that I enjoyed, but these are the standouts so far. This weekend I will be hitting a milestone: I will finally read Call of Cthulhu. My expectations for this story are fairly high.