Disclaimer: I was given an uncorrected proof to review by the editor. There were no conditions placed on the review.
Book available from all good stores and a few tax dodgers too. Publisher’s site with links here
It is a good time to be around if you like the Cthulhu Mythos. Perhaps too good as everything seems to get a Cthulhoid twist. I am almost expecting Cthulhu Disney Pricesses (and I bet if I Google that I will get some hits on that, in a pulp horror version of Rule 34)s.
The Mythos is not really a unified logical whole, no matter the efforts of August Derleth to impose one, but some things shine through, common themes of humanity’s insignificance in a universe more cruel and oblivious that we can imagine, except for the story you just read on that very topic, and certain story formats. Lovecraft did not just write the single plot format, but he had a few favourites, the “peeling of the onion” with layers of the story being revealed to unfold the horror being the classic, such as “The Innsmouth Horror” but he also wrote fantastical tales too like “The Doom that came to Sarnath”.
“Cthulhu Lives” delivers on those expectations and delivers well, particularly the fantastical “Scritch, Scratch”. There is no unifying theme or setting to the stories, they are disparate, but they all hit the spot in providing a nihilistic sense of doom, the abject sense of powerlessness and insignificance that we all know and love, even in the form of a love story (Dark Waters) or an eldritch revenge (Ink).
Not all the stories are perfectly delivered, The first, “Universal Constants”, should have been a shorter vignette that would have allowed the reader to dwell on the empty fate described, but most are solid, and capture one essence or other of dread. Some, like “of the Faceless Crowd” or “1884” capture the essence of Lovecraftian horror whilst not being the sort of thing he regularly wrote himself, but then neither was “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”.
“Lovecraft lives” might have been a better title, as these are not stories of the Old Ones, mainly, but, if you know your Mythos, they are there, lurking in the minds of those telling the story. Whatever drove Wilbur Whately or Richard Upton Pickman drives Conrad Delkirk in the excellent “The Thing in the Printer”. Although “Cthulhu Lives” is aimed at the Lovecraft afficionado and you get more with it, it works as a horror anthology without that background and any horror fan should pick it up.