19 September 2009

First reviews of Lovecraft Unbound edited by Ellen Datlow

Nathan Ballingrud's "North American Lake Monsters" and Lair Barron's "The Lagerstätte" were two of the most intriguing and widely praised stories in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow (2008). And there's more to come.

Publishers Weekly gave Lovecraft Unbound (pre-order now for Oct release) this starred review:
Lovecraft Unbound Edited by Ellen Datlow. Dark Horse, $19.95 paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-59582-146-1

The 16 new and four reprint stories Datlow (Poe) assembles for this outstanding tribute anthology all capture what Dale Bailey praises as horror master H.P. Lovecraft’s gift for depicting the universe as “inconceivably more vast, strange, and terrifying than mere human beings can possibly imagine.” Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud, in “The Crevasse,” evoke this alien sensibility through an Antarctic expedition’s glimpses of an astonishingly ancient prehuman civilization preserved in the polar ice. Laird Barron’s “Catch Hell” depicts a Lovecraft-type backwoods community in the grip of a profoundly creepy occult mythology. Selections range in tone from the darkly humorous to the sublimely horrific, and all show the contributors to be perceptive interpreters of Lovecraft’s work. Readers who know Lovecraft’s legacy mostly through turgid and tentacled Cthulhu Mythos pastiches will find this book a treasure trove of literary terrors. (Oct.)

Dark Scribe Magazine's review is by Blu Gilliand, and it's too long for me to pinch so read it here:

Both PW and DS reviewers pick up on the fact that Datlow doesn't do fanologies or collections of pastiches. It's lucky for her that flaming is more electronic these days, as she's a prime candidate for burning at the stake in just-so societies that like their definitions of what fits and what is, as familiar and limited as the range of movement for a healthy human tooth.

(Disclaimer: I have stories in both Datlow anthologies, and am quite attracted to the surprises that result from her taste. She could have been a wonderful museum curator, filling cases with unexpecteds, instigators of questions. I'm also prejudiced about her as an editor in a personal sense. She is a joy to work with, and a great help when I've bumphed along falling over feet I didn't even know I have.)

I found Gilliand's piece of great interest, as he started out with a flick of his devil's tail.

"Let me go ahead and get this out of the way. I’m no fan of H.P. Lovecraft. There. I said it . . . I think my inability to 'get' Lovecraft makes me the perfect person to review Ellen Datlow’s new anthology Lovecraft Unbound. This may be my ticket in. Because what Datlow wanted out of her contributors was not for them to do their best Lovecraft imitation – instead, she sought stories that were expressions of the authors’ love for Lovecraft. She wanted them to take the things that spoke to them in his writing and express them in their own style."

I also think that Gilliand's stance on approaching the anthology is perfect. No need to wet a towel to rub off sticky goosh. But I wonder if I'm alone in the reaction to his words, as Motown rings in that murky space between my ears: it's Marvin Gaye singing What's Love Got To Do With It?

After reading Lovecraft Unbound, Gilliand not only finds a common idea in the stories (a quest that reviewers set out on with what must be a sense of manifest destiny, and fulfil faster than flashfic heroes) but ends with "thanks to Datlow and all the able contributors for opening this reviewer’s eyes to the attraction of Lovecraft . . ."

Speak of the devil! I'm thrilled that he was not prejudiced against reading an anthology sparked by (but not imitative of) a writer that he couldn't stand. But I don't think he needs to go overboard. One doesn't have to be attracted to (let alone love) murder to be inspired by it to commit a story.

Table of Contents
Introduction by Ellen Datlow
"The Crevasse" by Dale Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud
"The Office of Doom" by Richard Bowes
"Sincerely, Petrified" by Anna Tambour
"The Din of Celestial Birds" by Brian Evenson
"The Tenderness of Jackals" by Amanda Downum
"Sight Unseen" by Joel Lane
"Cold Water Survival" by Holly Phillips
"Come Lurk with Me and Be My Love" by William Browning Spencer
"Houses Under the Sea" by Caitlín R. Kiernan
"Machines of Concrete Light and Dark" by Michael Cisco
"Leng" by Marc Laidlaw
"In the Black Mill" by Michael Chabon
"One Day, Soon" by Lavie Tidhar
"Commencement" by Joyce Carol Oates
"Vernon, Driving" by Simon Kurt Unsworth
"The Recruiter" by Michael Shea
"Marya Nox" by Gemma Files
"Mongoose" by Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear
"Catch Hell" by Laird Barron
"That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable" by Nick Mamatas


Nathan said...

Hey, thanks for the nice comment about "North American Lake Monsters". That made my morning! :)

anna tambour said...

A pleasure!