Friday, September 2, 2016

Cthulhu Attacks!: The Fear review


    Dammit, Sean, I wanted to destroy the world first. This peculiar opening to this review is a disclaimer as I know Sean Hoade personally. He's a great guy and the two of us had an interesting conversation a few years back when I was working on Cthulhu Armageddon and he was working on Cthulhu Attacks!.

    The sum of that conversation basically amounted to how both of us were annoyed Cthulhu never actually got on to the whole destroying the world thing. He either got thwarted by investigators or the stars were never quite right. Both of us were determined to write books where Cthulhu stomped humanity and regained some of his badly-damaged villainous pedigree.

    Due to the Permuted Press kerfuffle and a few other events, Sean managed to get his book out almost a year earlier than me. Even then, Sean wasn't the first individual to write a story about Cthulhu actually winning as that was probably John Carpenter who had the Great Old Ones win in the denouement of Into the Mouth of Madness. No shame in losing to him. There's also been a number of anthologies about either the destruction of the world or the aftermath. Still, Sean won our private bet and I'm presently reading my autographed copy of his book in order to do my review.

    Cthulhu Attacks!: The Fear is the first novel in a trilogy starring Old Batwings himself and a large cast of disposable humans who have the misfortune of being born when the world finally is face-to-face with his immortal resurrection. 400 million people die in his initial rising and the human race doesn't exactly cover itself in glory dealing with the aftermath. Some of them convert to the worship of the alien god while others decide to fight him, even though nuclear weapons are probably not the best weapon to use against a creature which travels unprotected through outer space.

    This isn't a typical Cthulhu novel as Sean Hoade wisely doesn't attempt to ape Lovecraft's purple prose. Instead, Sean presents a world which gently pokes fun at some of HPL's more outdated ideas while also taking the core of his cosmicism to "our world." An example of this is when a wealthy Caucasian anthropologist journeys to Papua New Guinea in order to investigate degenerate cannibal tribes only to find herself greeted by Simpsons t-shirt and shades wearing locals all too used to racist white academics. Even the Deep One hybrids live in trailer parks and watch Fox News.

    Indeed, Sean Hoade is one of the "New Lovecraftians" like Anne Pillsworth, Ruthanna Emrys, Peter Clines, and (I like to think) me who isn't afraid to reframe Lovecraft's stories in a new context. In this case, Sean Hoade makes the perhaps controversial decision to set his book in "our" world rather than Lovecraft Country. In this reality, H.P. Lovecraft was a science fiction writer who wrote about Cthulhu in the 1920s and the Cthulhu Mythos is a popular fictional set of characters. It just so happens the Lovecraft in this universe was psychic and possibly using real life cult secrets to write his novels.

    While there's a downside to this, particularly as character after character reacts to the reality of Cthulhu the same way as we would were Godzilla or Darth Vader to show up, it does have the benefit of allowing the story to function as an introductory pastiche to HPL's most famous monster. While I encourage everyone to read the originals, this one functions as perhaps the quintessential Modern Mythos tale. It also has a kind of cheesy-good kaiju-meets-The Stand sort of feeling.

    I love the characters in The Fear, ranging from the slowly-losing-her-mind President to the aforementioned racist anthropologist to a transparent stand-in for Christopher Hitchens as the self-styled "world's greatest expert on Lovecraft." By the end of the book, quite a few of these characters will be dead and the world greatly changed. I think this book might have worked better as a longer single volume than a complete trilogy but the fact I wanted the second book in the series says how much I enjoyed.

    The book isn't flawless. The sudden destruction of South America's population, for example, would do a great deal more than shock the other nations of the world. We're talking total economic meltdown and resource disaster. It also seemed like the populace of the United States was more concerned about the two million or so Americans killed on the highways during Cthulhu's rise. Likewise, the book is perhaps a little TOO funny in place as it verges on having as many laughs as Re-Animator for an ostensibly horror genre novel.

    Despite this, I loved this novel and recommend it to not only Lovecraft fans but those who aren't.

9/10

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