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Friday, August 7, 2015
"The Call of Cthulhu" (a book review post)
In fact, I think all of the popular culture reference to Cthulhu have led to a misconception about who or what Cthulhu is or was. Not that I'm going to tell you, because you should read it. Just know that Cthulhu is not just some demon from Hell. It's more complicated than that. "In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."
The story itself seems to be typical of Lovecraft's style, meaning the action happens to characters other than the protagonist, who is only researching events that have already happened. Sometimes, as in the case of "The Call of Cthulhu," this raises the tension and suspense. Why? Because, as we find out early in the story, our protagonist is expecting to be murdered, and his research into his uncle's supposed accidental death tells us why.
So here's the thing: I don't quite get why "The Call of Cthulhu" has taken on such a mythic quality. It was good, but I wouldn't say it's great. It's certainly apparent that there is a huge tapestry of mythos that this one story was pulled from and, evidently, Lovecraft had some of that worked out. Of course, I'm not very far into my reading of Lovecraft, yet (I've only read about half a dozen stories, so far), so, maybe, it's the other mentions in other stories that really build up the "legend" of Cthulhu and have made so many other people want to build on it. That said, even Lovecraft said this particular story was only "middling."
At any rate, it's certainly worth a read if, for nothing else, just to see where all the Cthulhu stuff came from. And, honestly, I think the whole cult of Cthulhu aspect is much more frightening than Cthulhu itself. Who, after all, is going to kill the protagonist? Assuming that happens, of course.
Posted by Andrew Leon at 12:00 AM
Labels: 80s, Call of Cthulhu, Cthulhu, H. P. Lovecraft, Hell, Lovecraft, mythos, protagonist, R'lyeh, TSR
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He is mentioned in other stories. Perhaps its the name that has lifted him above the other Great Old Ones. I mean, Hziulquoigmnzhah doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. (And yes, I did look it up, as it's not the easiest to spell, either.)ReplyDelete
Alex: I've doing some reading up on it. The whole Cthulhu thing took off, like, back in the 30s or something. I was surprised.Delete
I don't think that Cthulhu took off because of the story, but because of the mythos Lovecraft and his contemporaries created around it and the other Old Ones. For whatever reason, that really took hold in peoples' heads and now almost a hundred years later people are still writing stories about it.ReplyDelete
Jeanne: The thing with his contemporaries is interesting. The earliest other people to write about Cthulhu didn't have permission. There is some speculation that people thought, because the mythos Lovecraft created was so involved, it was a real thing he was writing about and so they didn't need to ask.Delete
I don't know. If the only reason to read it is to say I've read it I'll probably skip it. "Good but not great" doesn't make it onto my reading list much.ReplyDelete
Briane: I'll have a better idea of Lovecraft overall when I'm finished and let you know which are the ones to look at.ReplyDelete
I've seen a few other authors pick up the Lovecraft banner this summer. It's really not my thing--I do prefer Bradbury's SciFi...ReplyDelete
I find the mythos rather fascinating. Recently saw a Cthulhu for President bumper sticker, so it's still part of the popular SciFi culture even after all this time.
Veronica: I haven't seen anyone else talking about Lovecraft, recently. Testing his stuff was something I'd meant to do for a long time and finally got to it.Delete
I can't say I know a thing about either the story or the cult surrounding it but I do find it interesting that the fuss all stems from one book. I'll be interested to know if you find other references in his stories.ReplyDelete
TAS: From what I've gathered, there are only one or two other direct references to Cthulhu, but a lot of his stuff stems from the mythology of that world.Delete
I've never heard of this. It sounds interesting.ReplyDelete
Janie: There are some things about it that draw the mind. I think it's best read in conjunction with "Dagon," at this point.Delete
I know the name but not the book.ReplyDelete
Sounds interesting but maybe not one for me.
parsnip: Lovecraft is certainly not for everyone.Delete