Book Lovers Day 2019

As I said last year,  normally hate overly twee things like this…

Image result for book lovers day

But I make an exception when it comes to books. So on the off chance, anyone doesn’t have a book to love here are a few recommendations from last years post, with additional ones added from this year…

Anything ( and indeed everything) by the fabulous C G Hatton

The Alan Shaw novels By mildy scary Craig Hallam

The Sim Cavalier Novels by intimidating interlect of  K.R.Baucherel

Hopeless: Maine and Tantamount by The Brown Debonair collective

Harvey Duckman by many a fine writer and me

Boston Metaphysics’s society by the marvelous Madeleine Holly Roslyn

Smugglers in goggles by Nils earl of Sussex

God is a bedlamite by the mysterious Katie Salvo

War of the worlds by some bloke called Wells

The Oswald Bastable novels of Micheal Moorcock

Anything in my Sunday reviews 1 2 and 3

Quite a lot of Lovecraft 

And the entire contents of the IndieO’macron  for anyone I missed off my list

And a lot of other stuff hidden down the recesses of my blog

Oh and there are any written by that notable self-publicist Mark Hayes but one feels reticent about self-promotion

Anyway, Happy book lovers day, go read something… do it now, or else I will unleash the cat upon you…



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The History of the Necronomicon: TCL#56

The history of the Necronomicon is not a story as such, but a brief foe-academic treatise on the history of the most famous book old tentacle hugger ever dreamed up. He never wrote it, for reasons that are perhaps obvious (what with the requirement for human skin to bind it with and everything), but employed it as a device and a MacGuffin in many of his tales. this is then in effect a piece of background material he wrote for his own fiction, which he probably never intended for publication. Oddly enough that’s exactly what it reads like, background material, which would not be out of place in a Call of Cthulhu sourcebook… It’s interesting stuff, and rich in detail, but not a story, and can’t be read as such….

However it is also public domain, and not particularly long, so rather than talk about it, I have reprinted it entirely here, for you to have a read yourself…


The History of the Necronomicon
By H. P. Lovecraft

Original title Al Azif—azif being the word used by Arabs to designate that nocturnal sound (made by insects) suppos’d to be the howling of daemons.
Composed by Abdul Alhazred, a mad poet of Sanaá, in Yemen, who is said to have flourished during the period of the Ommiade caliphs, circa 700 A.D. He visited the ruins of Babylon and the subterranean secrets of Memphis and spent ten years alone in the great southern desert of Arabia—the Roba el Khaliyeh or “Empty Space” of the ancients—and “Dahna” or “Crimson” desert of the modern Arabs, which is held to be inhabited by protective evil spirits and monsters of death. Of this desert many strange and unbelievable marvels are told by those who pretend to have penetrated it. In his last years Alhazred dwelt in Damascus, where the Necronomicon (Al Azif) was written, and of his final death or disappearance (738 A.D.) many terrible and conflicting things are told. He is said by Ebn Khallikan (12th cent. biographer) to have been seized by an invisible monster in broad daylight and devoured horribly before a large number of fright-frozen witnesses. Of his madness many things are told. He claimed to have seen fabulous Irem, or City of Pillars, and to have found beneath the ruins of a certain nameless desert town the shocking annals and secrets of a race older than mankind. He was only an indifferent Moslem, worshipping unknown entities whom he called Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu.
In A.D. 950 the Azif, which had gained a considerable tho’ surreptitious circulation amongst the philosophers of the age, was secretly translated into Greek by Theodorus Philetas of Constantinople under the title Necronomicon. For a century it impelled certain experimenters to terrible attempts, when it was suppressed and burnt by the patriarch Michael. After this it is only heard of furtively, but (1228) Olaus Wormius made a Latin translation later in the Middle Ages, and the Latin text was printed twice—once in the fifteenth century in black-letter (evidently in Germany) and once in the seventeenth (prob. Spanish)—both editions being without identifying marks, and located as to time and place by internal typographical evidence only. The work both Latin and Greek was banned by Pope Gregory IX in 1232, shortly after its Latin translation, which called attention to it. The Arabic original was lost as early as Wormius’ time, as indicated by his prefatory note; and no sight of the Greek copy—which was printed in Italy between 1500 and 1550—has been reported since the burning of a certain Salem man’s library in 1692. An English translation made by Dr. Dee was never printed and exists only in fragments recovered from the original manuscript. Of the Latin texts now existing one (15th cent.) is known to be in the British Museum under lock and key, while another (17th cent.) is in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris. A seventeenth-century edition is in the Widener Library at Harvard, and in the library of Miskatonic University at Arkham. Also in the library of the University of Buenos Ayres. Numerous other copies probably exist in secret, and a fifteenth-century one is persistently rumoured to form part of the collection of a celebrated American millionaire. A still vaguer rumour credits the preservation of a sixteenth-century Greek text in the Salem family of Pickman; but if it was so preserved, it vanished with the artist R.U. Pickman, who disappeared early in 1926. The book is rigidly suppressed by the authorities of most countries, and by all branches of organised ecclesiasticism. Reading leads to terrible consequences. It was from rumours of this book (of which relatively few of the general public know) that R.W. Chambers is said to have derived the idea of his early novel The King in Yellow.


Al Azif written circa 730 A.D. at Damascus by Abdul Alhazred
Tr. to Greek 950 A.D. as Necronomicon by Theodorus Philetas
Burnt by Patriarch Michael 1050 (i.e., Greek text). Arabic text now lost.
Olaus translates Gr. to Latin 1228
1232 Latin ed. (and Gr.) suppr. by Pope Gregory IX
14… Black-letter printed edition (Germany)
15… Gr. text printed in Italy
16… Spanish reprint of Latin text


So there you go. As a story, well it’s not a story, but as source material and a window into Lovecraft’s writing and the world-building behind his stories, the weaving of real historical figures in with fictional ones, and the whole believable make-believe of it all,  (the use of Elizabeth I arcanist in chief Dr Dee and the pope most famous for making a horse a cardinal for example),  I personally find it fascinating, so it gets a solid 5 out of 6. Perhaps, this is proof that at its very best, Lovecraft’s work makes for great roleplaying game background material… or perhaps Lovecraft saw glimpses of the future of his work involving the rolling of d10’s and sanity saves and decided to write his own background material… Who knows, interesting it remains all the same…

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Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

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The Tentacle Reviews…

In my hands there rests a thing of wonder, a thing of joy, a thing of imaginative splendour and chilling, spine-tingling, mind-bending weirdness… Actually, that’s a lie, it’s not in my hands, and it’s not an it, it’s a they… A they that currently in a pile on my bedside table waiting to find a home on the bookshelves of the read, the consumed and the restful that await a reading once more… The end of July was a time of tentacles that came in three parts, that wrapped themselves around my consciousness and made me smile, and laugh, and shudder… and all in equal measure. For such is the magic of books, they can be many things, and so often inspire so many more.

These then are a trio of tentacle infused wonder, that fed my insomniatic  mind reasons to keep my eyes open in the long dark hours between twilight and dawn (which are fairly short in July I admit, but trust the rotational excentricities of the world to ruin a good image…) A trio which are linked by tenuous, sinuous, mysterious groping tentacles of artistic endeavour… One way or another…

(okay in actuality the creators of this fine trio are all friends of each other and share a commonality of temperament both artistic and literary… Its pure coincidence I read all three in the space of a few days of each other, I just like talking about tentacles, so sure me…)

Victims: Hopeless Maine 3

This, the third and latest volume in the annuals of Hopeless Maine, is at once both beautiful, and chilling, whimsical and dark, a joy for the eyes, and a feast for the mind. The much-venerated duo of Tom and Nimue Brown bring us back once more to the isolated fragment of the world of their collective imagination.

There is something in the fog, a presence, a mind, a fragment of some ancient evil that lay claim to this cursed isle, and that something has become more restless of late. People are going missing, more than usual, which is worrying as people tend to go missing all the time, and Salamandra has boy troubles, in that she isn’t really talking properly with one of them and the other has… issues… not least with his sense of possession (I don’t like his smile, which is a tribute to Toms art, because I really get the creeps from that smile yet I could not tell you exactly why…) If you have yet to discover the isle of Hopeless, just what have you been doing with your evenings?


Tales of Tantamount

If Hopeless Maine as a place is a tad weird, which is something of an understatement, then the Town of Tantamount, nestled as it is on the banks of the river seven, occasionally in the river seven, or on holiday for a week at the coast and sending out postcards about the virgin relationship between the towns elder thing and the Kraken it met on the beach… Or back on the banks of the Seven, but not necessarily in exactly the same place it was before… is a tad weirder still.

From the fevered imagination of the delightful idiosyncratic Meredith Debonnaire, comes a glimpse into the goings-on, the day-to-day, the wild and elusive, if not downright dangerous history of this town that could be described as idyllic, but only if the person describing it as such had no understanding of the meaning of the word and had drunk enough cider to drown southwest England… This is not a novel, indeed its hard to say what it is, except to say it is wonderful, inspired, and something you need in your life, and if it drives you slightly insane the magpies will probably save you… probably…


Not Before Bedtime

I love a short story, who doesn’t?… Well if you say ‘I don’t’ then I have no idea why you’re reading this… Not Before Bedtime is a short story collection from a master of the art. A delightfully chilling collection of tales of horror that covers many bases and yet feels complete within itself. Be it a tale of the noises from upstairs, or zombies from a zombies point of view. To that problem with the time of the month for the young professional when the time of the month gets a little hairy and has more to do with the month than usual. To tales that creep under the door and hide in the shadows of your room, and whisper to you in the night… Craig Hallam’s collection of nightmares is a joy, the kind of joy that gets told around the campfire, out in the woods, when everyone is pretending not to be scared, but the inner lizard is telling them to run… Who doesn’t like fiction that makes the pulse run a little quicker and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up just a little as you turn out the light and hear a sound beyond the bedroom door that must be the cat, definitely the cat, yes I know she is asleep at the end of the bed but that was definitely the cat ….

If you click on the pictures you will find links to these fine feast for the mind… or you can find out more about all four of these writers and artists in the Indie’Omacrom links

Collectively, or indeed individually, these all receive the highest award I can possibly give, for the joys there brought to my life in July… the award of many tentacles,, indeed

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The Good, The Bad, And the Just Plain Ugly: Amazon Reviews…

Amazon reviews, like it or not, are the lifeblood of the indie author. There is sadly no way of getting away from this. It is also why there is so much grief caused by them, and the occasional bout of joy. It is also why some spend so much time, money and energy acquiring fake ones, a practise I abhor. Hell, I don’t even like asking people for reviews to begin with, I’ll be thrice-damned before I resort to paying people to write them…

On the whole, however, the fake paid for reviews and other nastiness on one side, nothing puts a spring in an indie authors stride quite as much as getting a nice review out of the blue. So when someone pays you the compliment of writing an honest, positive review, you’ll find most authors will give thanks, and probably be more inclined to get on with their current WIP. The sun is shining through the clouds, they feel good about it all. The world is a happier place… As it was for me after this review for Passing Place appeared on the UK amazon on Monday…


As for the occasional negative review, well some of these are deliberate hatchet jobs, some are spiteful, and occasionally some are by people who just didn’t get the book, and that last one is fine. No, really it is… Though I personally have never left a bad review for any author, as if I don’t like a book I generally stop reading it, and at the end of the day generally it’s not because a book is bad, it’s just that it didn’t appeal to me. I’m not the audience of the book, it doesn’t need me to trash it, so why would I? Besides, as I say, the occasional review, no matter the motivation of the reviewer, doesn’t generally do an author any harm.


However, recently I got a negative review for A Spider In The Eye, on amazon in its US incarnation, and that really has been harmful, because as I don’t actively solicit reviews and don’t try to cheat the system by paying for reviews, this one-star review has left Spider as a book with 1 star on as its the only review on the US site… And while not everyone pays much attention to the number of stars a book may have, a 1-star book is probably going to be ignored by readers entirely, without ever taking the time to look at it. Basically, I have been hatchetted just as Spider was starting to make traction in the US, by one bad review. Which is the only bad review the novel has ever received, and unlike the UK site which shows both US and UK reviews, the US site doesn’t show reviews from other incarnations of Amazon.


I have sat on this for a couple of weeks because frankly, I don’t know how to respond to this. What I do know is I’ve sold no copies of spider in the US since that review came out, as opposed to the handful I was selling every week previous to that. Given I pay to advertise the book in the US, and it was doing well until this trashing, and even allowing for my liaise de fair attitude of everyone being entitled to their opinion, this review stings.

The review is also tad odd. It clear the reader ‘did not get’ the novel or understand its style. I’m also not sure if they were confusing Queen Victoria’s husband with Prince Philip, or queen Victoria with Elizabeth… As for the maid, that is a joke in the novel where Hannibals ‘name’ for one of his antagonists grows when she is mentioned as his understanding of who and what she is, grows. Most people enjoy that particular joke rather a lot. I know because it is often mentioned by readers as being ‘funny’. But as ‘bookworm’ missed the point on that one I guess he or she can be forgiven for finding that irritating.

Though Hannibal is written with a lot of humour, it is very much a case of British humour, and I am aware that doesn’t always translate across the pond. Maybe the jokes and the narrators, very British, attitude towards royalty that is inherent in Hannibal’s references to Queen Vic don’t cross the Atlantic well, though I have never had an issue with my British humour and American readers before, and frankly I am surprised if that’s generally the case now. I think ultimately ‘bookworm’ just didn’t get the novel. Which is fine. As the only other books they have ever reviewed (all 3 of them) are fantasy, and all the authors they follow write fantasy, I suspect that’s very much the case. And again, they are entitled to there opinion, I have no real problem with it.

What I do have a problem with is just how much it’s hurting me in the US as an indie writer with the first book of a series of novels I have, quite literally, spent years writing. Because it doesn’t matter that the majority of readers loved the first Hannibal novel and that aside this one review had nothing but positive feedback. That 1 star that A Spider In The Eye has on US amazon has killed the book entirely in that market, and all my hard work, all the writing, editing, redrafting, redrafting again, all the publicity, all the paid advertising, everything… has been for nothing right now, because one person didn’t like the book (despite reading the whole thing, and mostly it appears been upset by the ending not tieing everything up in a happy little bow). And if Spider can’t sell in the US because of this review, what chance the sequel when it comes out later this year…

Even getting positive reviews that would solve the issue is now a hundred times harder because with 1 star no one is taking a chance on reading it in the first place…

I am, you might have guessed, not entirely happy about this…

So there you go, the problem with Amazon reviews… in a nutshell.

One final thing, a request really, as I know a fair few of my readers are American, and I had sold a reasonable number of Spider’s in the US up to this point, so maybe your reading this blog post. If so, and you liked it, and amazons weirdly obstructive rules don’t prevent it, please take a moment or two and leave me a review when you have a chance… Trust me, I feel dirty just asking, but in the end, what else can I do.


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The Very Old Folk: TCL#55

“Malitia vetus—malitia vetus est . . . venit . . . tandem venit . . .”

Or for those of you without a working grasp of Latin…  Or who don’t have google to hand…

“Wickedness of old—it is wickedness of old…happened…happened at last…”

Those are the last words of dying roman officer, as at the end of ‘The Very Old Folk’ a tale by old tentacle hugger that is not particularly inviting to the casual reader. Indeed I would go so far as to say this is a tale for the serious Lovecraft reader only, the type of reader who wants to read everything he ever wrote regardless of if even Lovecraft would want you to do so himself…

Here’s the thing, Lovecraft did not write this story for ‘Wierd tales’ or ‘Amazing Stories’ or even ‘The American Amateur Press’. Indeed he did not write if for publication at all. Instead, this is a story taken from a letter he wrote in 1927to Donald Wandrei and found it’s way into print after Lovecraft’s death because in 1939 the same Donald Wandrei was the co-founder of Arkham House Publishing, which was first set up by Wandrei and August Derleth, with the expressed intention of preserving and publishing Lovecraft’s best work. It was they who came up with the title for the piece and included it in one of there earliest collection of Lovecraft’s stories. Presumably, because they felt a need for ‘new’ material to bulk out the portfolio.

Now the world owes a debt to Arkham House, without them there is a reasonable chance Lovecraft’s stories might have slipped away into obscurity after his death. Certainly, throughout the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s they were the ones keeping Lovecraft’s work and the work of many other writers in print and in the zeitgeist. But they are also responsible for some of the more obscure and often more forgettable pieces of Lovecraft’s Bibliography coming to print in the first place and ‘The Very Old Folk’ falls neatly into that inauspicious band. It is doubtful Lovecraft himself ever intended it for publication or even thought a great deal about the story. Though it’s not terrible by any means and contains hints and snippets of Lovecraft’s broader mythos, it’s also fairly bland and difficult to love. Not least because of all the Romans… more to the point the endless roman names that are scattered throughout the story, which just become a pain to read…

The story itself is the narration of a dream the narrator had, a dream of being a Roman soldier in the north of the Spanish province and the strange goings-on of the hill-folk who live in the mountains. After the hill-folk surprisingly don’t take prisoners for sacrifice on their sabbath, and because the townsfolk are afraid because they didn’t have anyone kidnapped, the Romans mount a punitive expedition into the mountains. Yes, that’s right, because the local hill tribe decide not to kidnap a victim for sacrifice as they were expected to do, they must be hunted down… I know, just go with it will you…. the Romans march up into the hills, and bad things start happening…


There is nothing wrong with the story, apart from some of the logic within it, but its also just not particularly engaging or all that interesting. There is no resolution, not even a Lovecraft style resolution, just the mildly ominous Latin above followed by a  paragraph of ‘then I woke up’. It’s not Lovecraft his best, it’s not Lovecraft his worst, it’s just Lovecraft playing with ideas and someone publishing his scrawled notes, probably with a little editing along the way.


Romans go up the hill for spurious reasons, Romans see things that scare the crap out of them, Romans run away…  the end… oh then I woke up…

By this point in Lovecraft’s career, he was not only capable of better, but he was also writing it consistently. If he wrote this with the intent to make something publishable out of it, I doubt somehow this was the story he intended to tell. So read it, don’t read it, forget its existence or try and analyse the hell out of it to find something in there worth the time and effort involved, (trust me many have) But for the most part, there isn’t anything here that the Lovecraftian world could not have lived perfectly well without. It gets a couple of tentacles because I don’t hate it, but at the same time, that’s because it doesn’t hold enough interest to be bothered to have much of an opinion on it at all…

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Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

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Awesome Stuff Update: Summer 19

An irregular collection of awesome stuff from my inboxes

I get a lot of mail, facebook messages and twitterings full of awesome stuff, much to the disgruntlement of my postperson when I have stuff delivered I am sure. And what is a Geek to do but share the joy with the world and shout from high mountains of the wonders the world does behold… For a geek loves to share his/her bounty with all… But as I never get time to do a post about everything individually, here is a post of many things, a cornucopia of delightful and rounding up of news from the summer so far…

Upon the isle of Hopeless Maine, Victims now reside…

The third volume of Tom and Nimue Brown’s Hopeless Maine is now out in the world and ready for your eyes to feast upon… If you have not read the previous volumes yet I can only ask why do you flagellate your soul by not doing so… ‘Remedy this situation’ is my most ardent suggestion, or you may never know who is stealing your spoons…

Tantamount and the year of the sad plastic bag…

The ethereal Meridith Deboniree has collected her history of the delightful town of Tantamount on the banks of the river Seven into a form the town’s library will accept. Now if only the library would stay in one place so she could drop off a copy there… If she can negotiate with The Carrion to let her pass and the Shadow council permit it… Frankly, this is too weird and wonderful for you not to read it…

Harvey Duckman presents Volume 2 (3  and 4)

Those wonderful folks at Sixth Element have produced the second of there Harvey Duckman anthologies crammed full of fresh new talents and old favourites. As well as a crotchety old hack from Yorkshire… Volume 3 is now in production and plans for volume 4 are well advanced. If you like discovering new writers and fabulous stories, and who doesn’t, feed your imagination with the strange, the weird and the wonderful…

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In a rare public appearance, having been strategically shaved, and crammed into an airship-pilots shirt I hung around with a whole bunch of other authors, a half dozen stormtroopers, a Harry Potter stage magician, a T-rex, Some delightful ladies singing something called frozen, and a whole host of damn fine geekery at Kapow Sci-Fi Fair in Stockton last weekend. This is an utterly useless update as it has already happened, unless you have a time machine, in which case what better use could you put it to than to nip back in time and have a chance to buy a book or two. Maybe you already did, in which case it was a pleasure to meet you… And I am posting this here to avoid breaking continuity…



Much more Awesome Stuff can be found here in the Indie’Omacon 

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The Colour Out Of Space: TCL#54

It was a scene from a vision of Fuseli, and over all the rest reigned that riot of luminous amorphousness, that alien and undimensioned rainbow of cryptic poison from the well—seething, feeling, lapping, reaching, scintillating, straining, and malignly bubbling in its cosmic and unrecognisable chromaticism.

Now there is a sentence with a life of its own. No one could accuse Lovecraft of underselling the strangeness of the life form that falls to earth in a quiet rural backwater of New England. This is life, if that’s the correct word, but not as we know it, not as we know it at all. Which is the key in essence to this whole tale, life is almost undoubtedly out there in the cosmos, the universe is too big for that to be otherwise. But life as we know it, nice, simple, understandable, carbon-based life, well of that there is probably little doubt too, but it is no more unlikely than life as we don’t know it. Life that did not evolve from the same roots of the tree as us. Indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, we can’t even be entirely certain there isn’t life on our own little mud-ball which isn’t actually life as we know it. Frankly, if your search for life is based on the premise of that it must be carbon-based, you have already narrowed the scope of your definition, and perhaps that in itself is the first mistake. But if we can’t even trust our definition of Life on our own planet, then how can we rule out the possibility of life out there in the endless beyond not perhaps conforming to that definition.


And if it doesn’t? If something falls to earth that isn’t just alien in the rubber costume, extending neck, light up finger with a strong desire to ‘phone home’ kind of alien. Not a carbon-based, understandable alien that while beyond our experience is not beyond our comprehension… What if it is something utterly alien to us on a cellular level, on a DNA level, on the level of amino acids and the basic building blocks of everything we understand as alive in our narrow carbon-based way? What then…

You can call Lovecraft a lot of things, and over the course of the last couple of years or so god knows I have, but by the last 20’s (1927 in this case) he was writing not only some of his best fiction but also some of his most insightful, and ‘The Colour Out Of  Space‘ is certainly both. Even more so when you consider that science at the time had yet to get to grips with cellular life and DNA. To say no one was writing stories quite like this back in the 1920’s is an understatement because while it was written almost a century ago it still has much about it that seems strange and beyond the scope of the universe in our very human definitions. It was also, far more than even ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ a breakout story for old tentacle hugger, it was one of his first stories to receive broad praise and re-publication beyond the confines of ‘Amazing Stories’ and other pulp magazines.

It’s also definitely ‘Colour’ not ‘Color’, which as Lovecraft wrote exclusively in American English suggests a definite choice on his part. Perhaps the choice of spelling was a subtle way to inject a little of the alien into the title, just to throw his mostly American audience off kilter a tad.

Ostensibly the story of a Boston surveyor visiting a remote rural area known locally as ‘Blasted Heath’, and investigating the rumours around how the area came to be abandoned and spurned by the locals. It is what he discovers as he investigates that is so compelling about this tale. Lovecraft, who was a bit of a strange bod at times as you know, excels at describing the weird and uncanny. The description of the heath and its strange flora and fawner, of plants that glow a little in the dark and fruits that ripen sour and inedible, and of all the strange events following a meteor crashing to earth forty years before the story is set, is a masterpiece of strangeness. Something alien is about in this remote part of New England, something so alien it is almost beyond comprehension. And it’s still there, dormant, perhaps waiting, though if it’s waiting for something, who cares even to guess what that might be, and what may happen when its waiting is done…

Of all Lovecraft’s tales, this is perhaps one of the strangest, and yet the most readable. there is a reason it remains so well loved today. It also still seems a modern tale, where other stories may have dated, or become fractured by time, this could, with little changed, be written and set today, and it would still seem as vital, oddly possible and not entirely unfrightening possibilities it provokes. Life, as we know it out there in the cosmos, may come down here one day, if we are lucky it will only be that, life as we know it…

It gets all the tentacles and my unhesitating recommendation, if you’re looking for a story that will make you lay awake with thoughtful if rather chilling possibilities floating around your mind…

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Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

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