The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath: TCL #52

So, here we are after 47 shorts stories of various qualities from the wonderful to the torrid, a fragment which should never really have been printed, a couple of serials, one fabulously entertaining, one best forgotten, and one novelette the least said about which the better in my opinion, we reach the first true actual novella, a story long enough to be a book all to itself, not quite novel length but still an actual novella… The much loved, much applauded and highly rated among Lovecraft aficionados ‘The Dream-quest of Unknown Kadath’ A novella featuring one of Old Tentacle Huggers best-loved characters, not least by old H P himself as the character is widely accepted as semi-autobiographical. I am sure therefore I should have been excited to read ‘The Dreamquest…’ But as anyone who has been reading these blogs along with me will know the main character in question is one I have taken to referring to as Randolph ‘Bloody’ Carter, and as ‘… of unknown Kadath’ also is the pinnacle of the Lovecraft stories often referred to as ‘The Dreamlands’ tales of which I have a strange love-hate relationship, well lets face it, this could go either way…

Dreamquest v1

If you’re waiting for my verdict with bated breath, not that I can imagine why you would be, then you’re going to have to put up with a minor diversion first, because, yes, I am going to talk about something else for a bit. Regular readers will I am sure be shocked by this, as when do I ever go wondering off track rather than talking about the subject at hand. I know, unforgivable isn’t it… But bear with me, it’s worth it, I promise you, it will all make sense… probably.

Now my favourite New England writer has a habit of linking all his works together, which is something I have always found fascinating. You can read one of his stories and if you don’t know his other works you might just read a passage and not notice that there is a delicious link it to another story. Take the story of a convict, with the power to suck ill health out of a person like sucking so much poison, who went walking through the yard to his own execution for a crime he never actually committed looks up to the sky and sees constellations which don’t exist in our universe but do in the universe of another set of stories by the same author. But its done with such lightness of touch you would not even notice unless you remembered a gunslinger in a desert looking up on those same stars in a novel written twenty years before the one your reading.

Sorry, you may be confused, but if it helps my favourite New England writer, is from Maine, not Rhode Island. As for the moment, I am talking about Stephen King, not Lovecraft.

the-dark-tower

If you have never read The Dark Tower novels, this may also confuse you, because the references to the Dark Tower, that are scattered throughout just about every other novel King has ever written are references you would only spot if you knew what you were looking at. They are however there all the same, in almost every novel save perhaps the earliest ones before he started to write The Dark Tower. Some novels more so than others, in some Dark Tower mythology and lore, form the whole backdrop, such as ‘From a Buick 8’ a novel that is actually about  an extended family of state troopers, but which features a car which is also a portal that was used to move from anotehr universe into ours by creatures from the Dark Tower novels. That is just a random example, however, the point is that King’s novels interweave to form a greater whole and The Dark Tower stands in the middle of all that weave, the edifice at the centre of the web, and it is that which sets King apart from most writers of fiction in any genre. It is that I try to emulate myself with ‘The Passing Place’. It is what makes King special in my eyes, and why I love his novels.

But let’s get back to ‘The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’ and the reason for that little diversion. King, I know, read Lovecraft. There is more than a little Lovecraft influence in some of the stories King tells. But if you’re looking for the great influence on King’s work it is probably ‘The Dream-Quest…’ Not so much because of the tale itself, but because of what the Dream-Quest does. When Lovecraft wrote ‘The Dream-Quest…’ He wrote his Dark Tower, in that it sits right bang smack in the middle of everything he had written up to that point, and I do mean everything. So to fully appriciate ‘Dream-Quest’ you really have to have read a whole lot of Lovecraft first. Which is ironic considering with King it works the other way round in many respects.

In ‘The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath’ you will find references to, among others, The Cats of Ulthar  , The White Ship , The Doom That Came To Sarnath , The Statement Of Randolph Carter, Celephais, Nyarlathotep , Azathoth , The Other Gods , The Silver Key, The Unnameable , Beyond The Wall of Sleep, and a whole host more, those are just the more obvious ones. Indeed there is a whole lot more Nyarlathotep in this novella than in Nyarlathotep itself, and indeed all the others.

This is a journey tale, the journey of our old friend and occasional bloody irritant Randolph Carter which takes him weaving his way through Lovecraft’s universe, which is the joy of the novella, more than the writing, or the tale itself it is what you stumble over along the way that makes it fun to read. But as I say, you have to have read Lovecraft to appreciate those things. The plot is… well let’s just say there is a lot of plot but none of it really the point. The point is the journey, not the end, and to ruin the end would seem foolish. Of course, this is a journey through the dreamlands, and at the end of such a journey, you always going to wake up. But that’s not quite how this ends or quite what is going on. This may be Carter’s dream, but it is much more than a dream. But the journey is worth the read, the journey through carters subconscious, through Lovecraft’s subconscious, through all his strange and wonderful imagination. Just remember the cats are important, be good to the cats and they might just save you…

For all, I am not the biggest fan of the Dreamlands sequence, though some of those stories are my favourites so I am not sure my opinion can be trusted, I can honestly say I really enjoyed The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Far more than the first time I read it several years ago having not read much Lovecraft at the time. Which is why I think you have to love Lovecraft or at least to be well read of Old Tentacle Huggers work to truly appreciate The Dream-Quest… But if you have read those other tales, then it is something of a masterpiece, for all it not quite been on the scale of a certain Tower in which resides a Crimson King… Thus it gets a masterful five slithering tentacles…

5out 6

it would be six, but seriously Randolph Bloody Carter …

AS ever Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

 

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