One of the many things I’ve come to late in life is Lovecraftian fiction. In fact, I read ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ (which was my first Lovecraft-read ever) less than a year ago. I know, right?! But while I haven’t read Lovecraft’s body of work in Cosmic Horror, and was introduced to concepts and creatures Lovecraft used by Jonathan Maberry’s The Extinction Machine, I do appreciate a good tale and great characters, and I am beginning to develop a real love and respect for Lovecraft’s work and the mythos he created.
So, while I might not be the best judge on what ‘Lovecraftian’ is, I can assure you that CT Phipps really seems to know his stuff, and is a great writer and storyteller, too.
These books are set in a world in which the Great Old Ones emerged or rose and basically destroyed civilization and society. We as the readers aren’t shown this uprising, but we are shown what remains of the world and its people – and that’s not much, admittedly. There are strongholds where the military rule and towns and villages, peopled by the descendants of the folks who managed to survive, are to be found out in the wilderness. Much of society is focused on trading goods and services, and some places have even struck up agreements of a kind with some of the creatures who came with the Great Old Ones. This makes the world CT Phipps created rife with danger and intrigue, but also very interesting – and not only because of how mankind has tried to adapt to this new world. The main character, John Henry Boothe, lives in one of the larger, more secure settlements, is married and has children, and is a veteran of many clashes against not only creatures intent on easting him, but also people who have thrown in with the aims and beliefs of the Great Old Ones in order to survive. When John and a group of other veterans are sent on a mission to investigate the disappearances of children, they find the Black Cathedral – and the battle which occurs there completely changes John’s life.
John as a character is brave, stoic, no-nonsense and stubborn, and surprisingly unafraid to show fear – surprisingly, I say, because I didn’t expect a person as capable as him to show fear; which lends him an authenticity and creates a connection with the reader when he does. He starts off as the archetypal weathered soldier and becomes the kind of man who learns to think beyond his judgments, and to look critically at himself in an effort to not only become a better soldier but also a better person. John’s back-up cast are equally interesting and memorable, ranging from a priestess of a cult John was an unwilling member of, to his squad of fellow soldiers, to his wife, and even reaches further out to friends and acquaintances John made during his many travels. Each character has their own place, backstory and beliefs (whether religious or not), which makes them stand out as individuals – and in the world they inhabit, this also makes them refreshingly different to the kinds of characters we’ve met before. There are soldiers, but they’re not just soldiers; there are healers and scholars, but they’re not just healers and scholars. The uprising shaped and affected entire generations, and the psychological effects of their currently reality and the events their ancestors survived has left an indelible and permanent mark on the remainder of humanity – but never the same mark. Everyone was affected differently and grew up differently, which means that there are many different points of view the reader is exposed to.
The world which CT Phipps is weird and wonderful and terrifying and familiar. There are places in which sentient creatures live alongside humans, places where the boundaries between the worlds of the Great Old Ones and ours are thin or blurry; there are age-old holdouts such as casinos; there are gangs and mercenaries, scholars and students, politicians and soldiers, etc. Remnants and ruins of the old world are everywhere, not only buildings but books and cars and even beliefs. The sense I got of the world was one even deeper understood by the creator of the world (Phipps) than the folks behind the Mad Max movies – not just broken, rusted, cobbled-together stuff but reasons and causes behind everything.
And there are plenty of Great Old Ones who make their presences known – and they are as powerful and terrifying as you’d expect. Especially Cthulhu itself. Old tentacle-face makes an appearance in the second book and I admit to being really worried when I heard we’d be meeting Cthulhu, but Phipps did and amazing job there, too.
In short, these novels are entertaining, exciting, terrifying and human – the author’s love of respect for Lovecraft’s worlds and creations infuses these books, and it seems that he had massive fun writing these books. High adventure, weird and horrifying terror, stand-out characters and engaging, fast-paced plots make these books unputdownable and memorable, and if you are a fan of Lovecraftian fiction, I hope you’ll check these out. 🙂
8/10 for both books!
Until next time,