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Kruger, Bob, and Tynes, John (Eds.). Delta Green: Alien Intelligence. Seattle, WA: Armitage House. 1998. (Paper)
Rating: 3.5 • Look for used from Amazon

About a year before I read this anthology, I referred to The House of the Toad as Mythos fiction after X-Files. The statement is even more true here. Those familiar with the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game may recognize Delta Green as a modern-day supplement involving a conspiracy within the government to thwart the designs of the Great Old Ones. This collection tells a number of the group's stories, from the last days of World War II through Vietnam and the present. On the whole, the stories are well-written and the characters relatively detailed. At times, a story can seem too caught up in the government-conspiracy, aliens-among-us mindset and fall flat, but in general the book is an interesting read.

Price, Robert M.. The Ithaqua Cycle: The Wind-Walker of the Icy Wastes. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. 1998. (Paper)
Rating: 3.5 • Look for used from Amazon

This book does what the Cycle books do best: trace the development of an idea from its origins, through the first Mythos authors, through today. This collection begins with Algernon Blackwood's "The Wendigo," one of Derleth's main inspirations for Ithaqua. It includes the three main Derleth Ithaqua stories, and moves on to one by Brian Lumley, the other main chronicler of Ithaqua. There aren't enough Mythos stories by the talented Joseph Payne Brennan; the one included here, "Jendick's Swamp," is a fine, suspenseful tale. The collection closes with James Ambuehl's "Wrath of the Wind-Walker," an engrossing tale of an expedition to a Cambodian temple and the aftermath. As the Cycle books go, this isn't the best, but contains some gems and rounds out the collection nicely.

Price, Robert M. (Ed.). The Innsmouth Cycle. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. 1998. (Paper)
Rating: 4 • Look for used from Amazon

Once again, with this collection Robert Price shows what the Cycle books are all about: tracing a Mythos theme from its pre-Lovecraft sources to its contemporary expression. In The Innsmouth Cycle, Price does so admirably. This historical perspective is almost enough to forgive the reprinting of "The Shadow over Innsmouth"; surely one of Lovecraft's finest, but not needing inclusion in another anthology.. The early tales are not that engrossing qua tales; however, they are fascinating to read as inspiration for Lovecraft's stories. The collection then proceeds into a pair of James Wade's tales from the late 60's; the first one is predictable but well-written, while the second one is thoroughly enjoyable political commentary. "Custos Sanctorum" does what more stories in a themed collection such as this should do: it derives its power not from the theme, but from other twists related to it. "Live Bait," by Stanley Sargent (an unfortunate surname for this collection), arguably the best story in the collection, goes farther and even turns Lovecraft's plot around; Sargent writes with a solid understanding of human nature. Unfortunately, some of the other works aren't as fresh; the stench of too-old plots is as strong as that of the Deep Ones they involve. Despite this, the collection is strong, and a worthwhile read.

Carter, Lin (Ed. Robert M. Price). The Xothic Legend Cycle. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. 1997. (Paper)
Rating: 2.5 • Look for used from Amazon

Although Lin Carter's stories are often flawed, this book makes good reading for someone who wants to fill out his knowledge of the Cthulhu Mythos. Indeed, filling out the Mythos was one of Carter's goals, which shows through some of his work aimed more at schematizing the Mythos than entertaining. Carter wants to relate everything, so his stories sometimes devolve into Derlethian name-dropping on a worn-out plot frame. Carter tried out all the possibilities; some of the stories read as if the author were playing the Mythos card game, dealing out all the monsters until some kind of a pattern developed. Of course, titles of elder-wisdom-containing tomes were thrown in for good measure. This book has several enjoyable stories, and still others interesting from a Mythos-historical aspect, for those interested in the development of the Cthulhu Mythos. However, this collection is for the real Mythos collector, not the dabbler looking for thrilling stories.

Price, Robert M. (Ed.). The Nyarlathotep Cycle. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. 1997. (Paper)
Rating: 4 • Look for used from Amazon

A glance at the contents of this book is enough to tell the reader that, what with all the "Pharoah" and "Nephren-Ka" titles, this could as easily be called The Nephren-Ka Cycle. The Nephren-Ka connection is a natural one, since the Black Ph aroah did call up one of Nyarlathotep's avatars; however, there are many aspects to Nyarlathotep. Few of them get treatment in this collection; several of the stories, in fact, barely make mention of Nyarlathotep. Can we actually consider Nephren_Ka an avatar of Nyarlathotep, as the back of the book asserts? Nyarlathotep is one of the most interesting members of Lovecraft's pantheon; there is a vast range of treatment possible, more than Cthulhu or Azathoth inherently possess, for example. Several of the authors take advantage of this; Gary Myer's The Snout in the Alcove is a good example. Although it's got a rather traditional horror-story plot, it creates a weird atmosphere very well, draing in many nuances of the Dreamlands and the Nyarlathotep mythology. Price has a difficult decision here: His goal is to delineate the development of one or more themes in the Cthulhu Mythos; what stories merit inclusion? More importantly, for a diverse audience ranging from those who have read everything Mythos they can get their hands on to roleplayers who might have read one story, what stories should be excluded simply because they're reprinted everywhere? Price obviously opts to not exclude anything for that reason. The result is that this volume shows a continuous development, from Dunsany's all-too-seldom reprinted stories, through Lovecraft and his contemporaries, through to the present. This makes for good reading, especially for someone new to the genre. However, it's frustrating for the collector, because t his book has 71 pages (out of 239) of stories he already has. Some of these stories were printed in earlier Price/Chaosium collections! That's the downside to making a complete collection; surely completeness could have been sacrificed at least with the Lovecraft stories, though, putting just a cross-reference in place of the entire stories.Despite a few flaws, this is an excellent collection. Many of the authors create insight into Lovecraft's hints about Nyarlathotep and Nephren-Ka. A novella by Lin Carter is a rare treasure, as are the stories from Dunsany. Additionally, Price has mana ged to ferret out some authors whose work is not well known, resulting in a book that offsets its common stories with truly unique jewels.

Tierney, Richard L. (Ed. Robert M. Price). Scroll of Thoth: Simon Magus and the Great Old Ones. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. 1997. (Paper)
Rating: 4.5 • Look for used from Amazon

Tierney is a masterful storyteller, especially when it comes to historical fiction. Simon Magus, the sorceror mentioned in the New Testament, becomes an adventure hero in this volume where Tierney expertly blends Gnostic and Christian tradition with the Cthulhu Mythos. In these stories, some of which have been reprinted in earlier Cycle books, Simon Magus runs up against many of the Mythos' worst entities. This is adventure fiction, not great literature--and the volume is fittingly dedicated to Robert E. Howard--but the stories are told in an engrossing way against the colorful, detailed backdrop of the ancient world. Tierney presents his settings very vividly. Price provides useful commentary and religious context, along with more postmodern interpretation than many readers will want or understand. This collection is an enjoyable read, well worth owning.

Berglund, Edward Paul. The Disciples of Cthulhu. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. 1996. (Paper)
Rating: 4.5 • Look for used at Amazon

This collection is not a Chaosium original; happily, that publisher resurrected this 1976 anthology, proving once again that old adage, "That is not dead which can eternal lie...." The stories in the collection well deserve being brought out for readers again. The anthology was, in 1976, something completely novel; it was an all-original Cthulhu Mythos anthology, a major publishing risk. While the immediate members of the Lovecraft Circle are not represented here, the stories retain the flavor that marks some of that initial writing so strongly. This is classic Mythos fiction

Derleth, August. The Mask of Cthulhu. New York: Carroll and Graf. 1996. (Paper)
Rating: 1 • Look for used at Amazon

Before Carroll & Graf's resurrection of it, this collection had been deservedly out of print for some time. The individual stories reprinted here first appeared between 1939 and 1957, some of them in Weird Tales. None of the stories rise above basest pastiche, unlike some of Derleth's work. The stories do little to explore or round out the Mythos, instead just covering the same ground again and again, mainly Cthulhu and the Deep Ones. The stories are remarkably predictable; anticipating Derleth's prose verbatim is the one joy open to the reader. "The Return of Hastur" has something to be said for it, as it marks Derleth's reappropriation of Hastur from Robert Chamber's The King in Yellow. The story is also available in Chaosium's The Hastur Cycle, where one can find many more stories of value. The reader will find little in this collection to reward the time spent reading it. Somewhat more interesting are Derleth's The Trail of Cthulhu and his "posthumous collaborations" with Lovecraft, The Watchers out of Time and The Lurker at the Threshhold. The one value of this book may be for roleplayers; some of the locales and events presented in these stories could be converted into enjoyable scenarios.

Greenberg, Martin and Weinberg, Robert. Miskatonic University. New York: DAW Press. 1996. (Paper)
Rating: 4 • Look for used from Amazon

The unexpected fruit of a visit to Border's Books was this volume. Not only was this a happy surprise in the store; it continued to be one from cover to cover. Despite all indications--a lurid cover; the fact that the book is published by a mainstream press, not one which specializes in Cthulhuiana; and a content page that for the most part lacks names connected with the Cthulhu Mythos--this book amounts to a very solid anthology. Although all of the stories are well written (not something every anthology can boast), this praise is not given without some reservation. There's a change here, not necessarily for the better. This is Mythos fiction in the age of the X-Files; some of these stories have broken free of the worn-out elements of Lovecraft's immediate followers, only to be trapped by a set from contemporary culture. "Kali Yuga's Hunt" is one example; its investigator seems just too much like an X-Files reject. However, the story transcends this by being innovative in other ways and engrossing. It would be a shame to let Mythos fiction all fall into this pattern, however. While all of the stories are good, some are superb. Will Murray, clearly established in the pantheon of authors by this point, has a strong presence in "The Sothis Radiant." The story brings together some of the traditional Lovecraftian elements, particularly the malevolent cosmos, but makes them fresh and powerful. "Mandelbrot Moldrot" takes the Mythos in a new direction, bringing science and horror together just as Lovecraft did with the science and horror of his day--now it's chaos theory instead of relativity. Finally, "Her Misbegotten Son" is another jewel of the anthology; it's by far the longest entry here but deserves every bit of that space. Readers will be happy to meet again with a couple of Lovecraft's great Arkham villains. This anthology shows that there is still life in the themes, settings, and characters originally conjured by Lovecraft, and that authors are able to convey that life without getting dragged down completely in the dark side of human existence.

Price, Robert M.. The Necronomicon. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. 1996. (Paper)
Rating: 2.5 • Look for used from Amazon

This collection offers the reader a very mixed bag. Pulling off an anthology like this is extremely difficult because the stories threaten to be repetitious, tedious, or both. Robert Price has only moderate success here. The stories are remarkably varied; Price has taken a good cross-section of stories about the Necronomicon and has avoided the repetition problem for the most part. Despite this, some of the stories are quite predictable. The strength of this collection indeed lies in its variety. When was the last time you read a Mythos story by John Brunner? His story is one of the best of the book. For that matter, Silverberg and Pohl are not well known for Mythos contributions, but they make contributions to this volume. The real tedium in the collection comes in the versions of the Necronomicon. There's only so much archaically-written gobbledygook a reader can stand. After a page of it, the rest looks like more of the same. Thus, "The Sussex Manuscript" and Lin Carter's contribution are of little interest to the reader. Carter's repeats the same themes again and again, showing some creativity but soon losing the reader's interest. The value of this collection, then, is limited. Some of Price's other collections present a much more interesting read. This book is one for the completist.

Price, Robert M. (Ed.). The Cthulhu Cycle. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. 1996. (Paper)
Rating: 4.5 • Look for used from Amazon

As usual, Robert Price has done a fine job in bringing together a number of stories for a coherent collection. Although many anthologies suffer because every story centers around the same theme or character, each story in this collection remains fresh. The breadth of stories is excellent as well. Price brings together old and new, major authors and lesser-known, without trotting out any of the common stories (except for the requisite "Call of Cthulhu"). Even this classic, read many times over by most of the book's audience, takes a new semblance in the context of the other stories. As in all the Cycle books, Price sets Lovecraft in context, tracing the ancestors and descendants of the Master's work.

Tierney, Richard. The House of the Toad. Minneapolis, MN: Fedogan & Bremer. 1996. (Cloth)
Rating: 4.5 • Look for used from Amazon

Richard Tierney has here a stunning accomplishment. Cthulhu Mythos novels are relatively rare; even novel-length works like Derleth's The Lurker at the Threshhold and The Trail of Cthulhu, as well as Lin Carter's cycle, aren't truly novels but interlocking short stories which form a larger narrative. Tierney here has a true novel and can take advantage of the greater scope allowed by the form. And take advantage he does. Even though the narrative spans less than a week, even including the epilogue, the tale has a huge scope, drawing together centuries of human history and prehistory, as well as the cosmic cycle which is the Cthulhu Mythos. Allusion and reference are strong in this work as well; although Tierney all but avoids the now-diluted tropes of the Mythos, the Necronomicon and its kin, he draws the novel firmly into the Mythos with involvement from various deities, mentions of the works of Lovecraft, and elements from Chambers' fiction. He also works the story into a larger tapestry; elements within the plot make allusions as disparate as Edgar Allen Poe ("The Fall of the House of Usher") and Ed Gein, real-life inspiration for Robert Bloch's Psycho. He also has a supreme knowledge of anthropology, from Meso-American archaeology to the classics of the field, such as Frazer's The Golden Bough. Many of these references are so subtle as to be almost unnoticeable.

Price, Robert M. (Ed.). The Hastur Cycle. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. 1993. (Paper)
Rating: 3 • Look for used from Amazon

The publication of this book marked something important in the field of publishing Cthulhiana. When Chaosium decided to publish their Cycle books, it meant the reappearance of some long-out-of-print stories; when Robert Price became the editor of the series, it meant a commitment to the highest-quality stories and the introduction to readers of some scholarly perspectives. The series is novel because it ties Lovecraft into his models and his successors; Price sets Lovecraft's stories, the heart of the Mythos, into a wider cycle. What Lovecraft wrote was only one part of a broader story. This is precisely what Lovecraft wanted. He admitted, too, that parts of the cycle were contradictory. This made it even more myth-like, and it is from their mythic, primordial quality that Cthulhoid stories draw their power. Price sets the stage very well in his introduction and in notes before each story. The book is organized along two streams of Hastur stories, streams which started with Chambers and Bierce on one side and Machen on the other. These streams converged in Lovecraft's "The Whisperer in Darkness." This thematic organization, instead of a chronological one, gives the stories more power, more life. An evolution can be seen, but other links are established just as strongly between stories.

Stratman, Thomas (Ed.). Cthulhu's Heirs. Oakland, CA: Chaosium. 1992. (Paper)
Rating: 2.5 • Look for used from Amazon

A warning has to be issued at the beginning of this review: This book is a departure. It is a departure both from the method of the Cycle books as a whole (to follow a theme throughout the Cthulhu Mythos), and from the generally high standards of stories set by the other Mythos books. That's not to say the book is not rewarding; it has very high points to balance some very low points. "Those of the Air" by itself makes the book worthwhile; but then, that's usually true of stories in which Darrell Schweitzer has a hand. Robert M. Price's story is good reading, as is a reprint of Ramsey Campbell's. "Scourge," by Charles Saplak, is also compelling. The rest of the stories vary from relatively good through rather dreadful. The strength of the book is that it brings fresh blood to Cthulhu (heh, heh). As early efforts from some authors, the stories are valiant attempts--many of these stories could be the start of something great. As almost all-new stories, too, they bring the horror of Cthulhu to the 90s. That several authors fail miserably in combining technology and elder horrors does not make the attempt unworthy. Cthulhu's Heirs also offers a wide variety of themes and settings. The major drawback to this book is some stories not worthy of print; to have Chaosium's absolutely worst effort at correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar compounds the problem.

Derleth, August. The Watchers out of Time. New York: Carroll and Graf. 1991. (Paper)
Rating: 1.5 • Look for used from Amazon

The stories contained in this book were written by August Derleth as "posthumous collaborations" with H.P. Lovecraft. What this meant was that Derleth would take a sentence or two from Lovecraft's writing, often a quote from the Necronomicon or a description, and bill these as the writing of both of them. The plot and the writing were all Derleth. On the cover, Carroll and Graf bill the work as entirely Lovecraft's; this is a surprising bit of deception which could turn readers off from the true writing of Lovecraft. What this means is that these stories are a far cry from Lovecraft's best work. In fact, for the most part they are a far cry from Lovecraft's worst work. They are utter pastiche; they also hit on every possible cliche of the horror world, Cthulhu Mythos or not--the Deep Ones; revenge beyond the grave; the curse passed down in the family; and so on. While it is possible to go some distance with these ideas, Derleth does not; he is bound by Lovecraft's style and does not treat the plots with any imagination. Someone truly immersed in the Mythos might enjoy reading these stories, because they are the work of one of Lovecraft's tutees. Derleth's work in publishing the work of Lovecraft and other Mythos authors was invaluable, and credit is due him for this; however, the reader wishes Derleth had stuck to publishing what Lovecraft really wrote, not expanding his story credits.

Lovecraft, H.P.. At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. 1985. (Cloth)
Rating: 4 • Look for used at Amazon

This is the second volume in Arkham House Publisher's complete set of Lovecraft's works. While this book is well worth owning, it doesn't present as strong a set of stories as The Dunwich Horror and Others. This collection represents Lovecraft's longer writings, with three novellas and several long stories. The majority of these are highly regarded segments of the Cthulhu Mythos, including the title novella, "The Dreams in the Witch House," and to a lesser extent "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward." The last, despite being the thickest of Lovecraft's writing, has numerous redeeming characteristics, including a storyline credibly spanning multiple centuries, some of the best characterizations in all of Lovecraft's writings, and a strong sense of place. Other stories here disappoint, however. "The Statement of Randolph Carter" is on the whole rather blah; "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" goes too many places in too short a time, creating two-dimensional settings almost like stage sets, shifting constantly; and "The Shunned House" is in the end unconvincing. However, these faults can be forgiven, as they represent Lovecraft's earlier writings and an evolution into the far better tales in this volume and others can be seen.

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