Lovecraft has always been one of those authors that has always left me a quandary. I love the scope and imagination of his writing, however his actual writing has always left me cold. I'll be totally honest and say that I have always preferred when other writers used his Mythos. Sacrilege I know but hey that's just me.
Which brings us to Dreaming in Darkness, a collection of four short stories / novellas from Adrian Chamberlin, John Prescott, Jonathan Green and A J French. These are all authors whose previous work I have both read and enjoyed immensely, so seeing these four guys had gotten together to produce this book how could I not jump at the chance to read it.
Kicking off the anthology is The Order by Aaron J. French. This is a fantastic story that masterfully combines a police procedural story with a supernatural end of the world scenario. Called in to help with the investigation of a brutal murder that hints at supernatural foul play retired Detective Carl Sanford is soon drawn into mythos busting story of epic proportions. On the surface Sanford feels like a typical typical cookie cutter Detective, however A J French, despite the limitations of the stories length transforms him into a wonderful character. A character that I would love to see more off. The incorporation of historical and occultish elements is also handle extremely well The finale of this story is a chilling one and fits the story like a glove. This is an excellent way to start this story.
Next up is Adrian Chamberlin's Shadrach Besieged a bloodthirsty tale that spans the centuries. Jerusalem has fallen and it is down to Massoud to find the sacred spot where he can bury a valuable idol. He makes to the spot, but is brutally cut down by a group of riders before he can safely bury it. The story then skips forward 500 years or so to the English civil war. Where Captain James Palmer company of riders , meet a lone stranger, a stranger that will lead them on bloody and terrifying journey to the Black Church.
If you are familiar with the writing of Chamberlin, then you will know what you are getting here. If you are not familiar with his writing, then buckle up folks you are in for a treat. This is an amazing story, full of exceptional writing that somehow manages to pile on more and more nightmarish terror on each page. In a hands of a lesser writer this story could have quickly fallen into cartoonish horror, it is a credit to the talent of Chamberlin that story never crosses over to this side, and remains firmly planted in the dark side. This is without a doubt one of the best stories I have read in The Mythos in a number of years.
Jonathan Green's The Serpent's Egg, not only takes the Mythos as a reference point, he also throws in Stoker's The Lair of The White Worm. Much like the author in the story Green is looking to add a new twist to both the Mythos and Worm story, something which he manages with great success. The Serpent's Egg is a wonderful story of the occult, full of libraries of occult tomes, mysterious chanting emanating from secret caves to a full on orgy with what looks like the whole population of the village. Where this story excels is in the way the felling of paranoia and mistrust of others is conveyed, in may ways it has a similar haunting and ethereal feeling as The Wicker Man, which in itself is no mean feat, which Green uses expertly to layer on the tension and unease, until a wonderfully horrific last act.
John Prescott's story New Heaven's takes a rather unique treatment of the source material. Rather than having a story where The Old Ones are trying to break through into our world, Prescott takes the brave decision to rip our world from our rather nice place in the multiverse and plunk it right in the heart of the Old One's corner of the universe.
It's a brave move starting a novella in this manner, how can you hope to top an opening like that? Possibly by writing a tense action packed narrative that throws ever increasing horrific set pieces in your face like a bucket of cold blood? That will work for me. Prescott's story perfectly captures the crazy, wild and mind screwing landscape you would expect to find in the old ones universe. The story is also helped buy some wonderful descriptive passages, especially those that describe the destroyed American landscapes. How he managed to pack so much narrative, thrills, tension and characterisation into 42 pages I don't know. But by Hell he manages it.
New Heaven is the most original story in this anthology, and is a true work of genius.
If like me your dreams are always a nightmare, then Dreaming in Darkness is the perfect book to ignite your dreams.
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