Monday, January 03, 2011

Giving up

Although in general, I hate giving up on books that I'm trying to read, I've also decided that after a reasonable chunk into a book if it's showing no sign whatsoever of being any good at all that life's too short to keep reading it.

So, not exactly reviews per se, but the lack of reviews is, in essence, a review, and it's a bad one. The graphic novel Cthulhu Tales is poorly executed. It has a lot of stories, but each story is only a few pages long. In graphic novel format, that amounts to something that could be translated into about half a page of text, or less. These are not stories. I read about 60-70% of the book, and flipped through the rest. It's not worth the trouble. Most of the stories are rehashings of extremely predictable and cliched horror moments, and a few are jokes. The art quality is very variable, with few that stand out as pleasant to look at in any sense of the word. And, oddly enough, most of the stories aren't really overtly Lovecraftian; a lot of "generic" horror finds its way in here, poorly labeled. In any case, I had thought to finish this last night and review it today; it won't be happening.

The same is true of The House of Cthulhu by Brian Lumley. I've read about 40% of that book, and I'm putting it down and taking it back to the library. It's not actually a novel, although it masquerades as one. Rather, it's a collection of short stories that take place in the "Primal Lands"; a putative prehistoric continent. The adventures are old fashioned sword & sorcery; in fact, in premise and set-up, this book reminds me strongly of Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborea cycle of stories. Sadly, Lumley's cleverness, writing craft, and ability are far below that of CAS (at least, as demonstrated here,) and this collection started (and I presume remains) banal, stilted, and frankly, quite boring. Lumley really got off on the wrong foot when his framing device, the idea that this was a translated set of documents mocked by the scientific establishment and therefore published as fiction, is overly long and boring, and begins with a long-winded geographical survey of his fake continent. Following that extremely slow start, I read the next three stories, through "The House of Cthulhu" which gives its name to the whole collection. I found none of them very intriguing. I've also got Lumley's Necroscope coming via Interlibrary Loan; I hope that he can deliver better there than he did here.

I started these two in the hopes that I could discover some new Mythos writers of some talent, but both of these fell quite flat and disappointing with me. I've got another collection (by Gary Myers, I believe) on the way, and I picked up another paperback collection recently that's somewhere out there on my "to read" list. But I have to say that my initial foray into "modern Mythos fiction" has not been a positive one.


Taranaich said...

I much prefer Lumley's original work over his Cthulhu pastichery (though I have a soft spot for Titus Crowe, who's essentially what you get when you put Doctor Who in the Cthulhu Mythos). The Necroscope series is by far his best work, though Necroscope II and III are, in my opinion, the best of the series.

Lumley is no Smith, or Lovecraft, or Howard, it's true, but then, who is? As for forays into modern Mythos, I don't know why you went with Lumley: Charles Stross' "A Colder War" is a much more interesting modern take, at least in my mind.

Joshua said...

Actually, I'd just read "A Colder War" recently, and I liked it enough that I'm curious about his Laundry Files series.

Mostly I went with that Lumley stuff because I saw it sitting around on the shelf at my local library. I live only a few blocks from a pretty good local public library, so I spend a lot of time browsing the shelves. Much to the detriment of my "books I own but haven't yet read" queue, which never seems to get much shorter no matter how much I read.