The Madness of Cthulhu Volume Two edited by S.T. Joshi
Titan Books (2015)
304 pages; $13.01 paperback/$8.69 e-book
Reviewed by Frank Michaels Errington
From the intro to The Madness of Cthulhu Volume Two – “If there is a dominant theme in this volume and its predecessor, it is that of alien incursion, the notion that ‘we are not alone in the universe.'” For me, it’s all about the stories and in this anthology the stories are, for the most part, excellent.
“20,000 Years Under the Sea” by Kevin J. Anderson. With more than 50 books to his credit, Anderson’s is as close to a household name as you can get in the world of SF. I loved his mix of Captain Nemo’s world with the Cthulhu mythos. A truly engaging story combining the works of H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft. A perfect start to the anthology.
“Tsathoggua’s Breath” by Brian Stableford. Brian’s recent fiction includes a series of novels and novellas featuring Poe’s detective Auguste Dupin, some of which confront him with the Cthulhu mythos. “Tsathoggua’s Breath” is the name of a glacial wind that blew from the North in a time when Greenland was no longer green. Tsathoggua is also the name of an ancient god, invisible, known for stealing children.
“The Door Beneath” by Alan Dean Foster. His first published work appeared in the Arkham Collector in 1971. Over the years his name has become synonymous with the media tie-in novel, including a number of Star Wars and Star Trek books. At a secret lab, well below a secure location in Antarctica, the Russians are performing experiments on something unimaginable. “The sight was awe-inspiring, overwhelming, humbling, terrifying.”
“Dead Man Walking” by William F. Nolan. Continuously published since 1952, William is perhaps best known for creating Logan’s Run. He is the recipient of the lifetime achievement award from the Horror Writer’s Association and a “living legend” award from the International Horror Guild. Philips is a writer with a book due his publisher, exposing the truth about and debunking supernatural beliefs. By the end of this one he may have to reconsider his premise for the new book.
“A Crazy Mistake” by Nancy Kilpatrick. Nancy is an award-winning author with 18 published novels, more than 200 short stories, and the editor of more than a dozen anthologies. A researcher for the B-movie industry, whose job is to add credence to everything from stories of mummies to space creatures, uncovers a book in the Miskatonic University library called The Great Old Ones. What she discovers is enough to drive her mad.
“The Anatomy Lesson” by Cody Goodfellow. Cody is no stranger to the Cthulhu mythos, having written short stories for The Book of Cthulhu 2, A Season in Carcosa, and others. In an earlier time, medical students turn to grave robbing to obtain fresh corpses for their final exam and unearth an empty coffin. What lies beneath the graveyard is horrible beyond words.
“The Hollow Sky” by Jason C. Eckhardt. Jason is a self-taught illustrator and writer. His nonfiction writing has appeared in Lovecraft Studies and Studies in Weird Fiction. Investigations into an ultra-normal phenomena on the East Antarctic Shield. Another well-told story of the Old Ones and a plan to take back their world.
“The Last Ones” by Mark Howard Jones. Mark Howard lives in Carfiiff, the capital of Wales and has had dozens of short stories published on both sides of the Atlantic. A story filled with beautiful prose. A tale about finding your way home. Set on the West coast of Wales, professor Patrick Neede is there to research the legendary Saint Degion, or at least that’s what he thinks.
“A Footnote In the Black Budget” by Jonathan Maberry. I think, by now, most of us know the name Jonathan Maberry, a New York Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and freelancer for Marvel Comics. There’s no mistaking a Joe Ledger story from Maberry. Fast-paced with words that just jump off the page. “We were aboard an LC-130 Hercules, a big military transport plane fitted out with skis. None of us liked the fact that our plane had to have skis.” In this story the DMS team goes up against something in the Antarctic that even they have never had to deal with before.
“Deep Fracture” by Steve Rasnic Tem. Steve’s 200 plus published pieces have garnered him a British Fantasy Award, World Fantasy Award, and a nomination for the Bram Stoker Awards. It’s all about what’s below the abandoned coal mines in the Appalachian mountains.
“The Dream Stones” by Donald Tyson. Donald is a Canadian writer of fiction and nonfiction dealing with all aspects of the Western esoteric tradition, as well as a biography of Lovecraft titled The Dreamworld of H. P. Lovecraft. This is probably my favorite story of the anthology. It starts with one hell of an opening, too: “Let me make this clear, I had nothing to do with the events I am going to set down in this narrative. I was merely an observer, and I am in no way responsible for what happened this semester, either in a moral or a criminal sense. None of the deaths were my fault.”
“The Blood In My Mouth” by Laird Barron. Laird is the author of several books, an ex-patriot of Alaska, now making his home in upstate New York. This short story is set in Alaska where a bush pilot see monsters in the depths of Lake Iliamna, monsters as big as nuclear submarines.
“On the Shores of Destruction” by Karen Haber. Karen is a Hugo nominated editor and author of nine novels predominantly in the real of SF and Fantasy. Something changes after the big hurricane hits Galveston. Another fun story which features the Old Ones.
“Object 00922UU” by Erik Bear and Greg Bear. Erik is building his bibliography and Greg has established himself as one of the leading writers in the field of SF, having won the Hugo, Nebula, and Endeavor Awards. These two have teamed up before as they do here to present a story of The Xenic Disposal Team, whose job it is to study alien relics, determine if they are dangerous, and if so, disarm and dismantle them before they can do harm.
Although, I am no authority on Lovecraftian literature, I did enjoy many of the stories in this new anthology, and whether you’re a fan of Lovecraft or not, I think you will find something you like here, as well.
If you’re new to Lovecraft or already a fan, I feel comfortable recommending this new volume.