With a foreword by Leeman Kessler of “Ask Lovecraft” fame and an afterword by noted Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi, the short story anthology Cthulhu Lives! drags the Cthulhu Mythos flopping and gibbering into the 21st Century, making it relevant to today’s technological culture. Across the board the stories are of fairly high quality, with a number of stand-outs and a few that did more to elicit a trip to the Dreamlands than the insane asylum. Some of the highlights include:
Universal Constants by Piers Beckley: there’s particle physics, horrible nightmares, and creeping insanity. This story exemplifies Lovecraftian themes, showing us that it’s not just effete, early 20th Century New Englanders who can go mad looking at the cosmic horrors behind the veil, but anyone.
1884 by Michael Grey: a disturbing, imaginative look at an alternate-history Europe. Between the claustrophobic fascism depicted and the unnatural monsters behind it, there are no safe places to hide. It read like a fragment of a larger work that you wish you could pick up somewhere.
Hobstone by G.K. Lomax: equal parts funny and bizarre, the charm of this story is that you know exactly where it’s going, but it takes you there in style. The university atmosphere seems a deliberate poke at Miskatonic U.
Ink by Iain Lowson: A disquieting look at art, criticism, and insanity. Fans of Thomas Ligotti will appreciate both its subtlety and brevity.
Of the Faceless Crowd by Gábor Csigás: I wasn’t sure about this story when I first read it, but it stuck with me, which makes it a real winner. It’s not scary, but it is disturbing, discussing the nature of identity and technology.
Coding Time by Marc Reichardt: a disorienting tale of technology and the Mythos, with a bit of The Office thrown in. You know who the boss really is, don’t you? Of course you do. Don’t drink the coffee.
The Thing in the Printer by Peter Tupper: the theme of obsession is carried very well here, with some genuinely disquieting moments and a few gross parts thrown in. I’m not sure that I’ll ever look at a 3D printer the same way again. Definitely don’t use one. Ever.
There’s a lot more to like in Cthulhu Lives! than not, and more than enough material to keep you up for a few hours clutching an Elder Sign in one hand and your e-reader in the other.