At the heart of these stories, as with all the best of Lovecraft’s work, is the belief that the Earth was once inhabited by powerful and evil gods, just waiting for the chance to recolonise their planet. Cthulhu is one such god, lurking deep beneath the sea until called into being by cult followers who – like all humans – know not what they do. It is because of these dark, mythic tales with their terrified awareness of the limits of Man’s knowledge, that H.P. Lovecraft is one of the most influential American writers.
©2010 Naxos AudioBooks (P)2010 Naxos AudioBooks
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
"In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”
Ask any writer of horror, fantasy, or weird fiction who their influences were and H.P. Lovecraft’s name is almost sure to come up, especially if they’re over the age of 50. For this reason alone, all true fans of these genres must experience H.P. Lovecraft’s work for themselves. Think of it as “required reading.” Even if you don’t read horror or weird tales, Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos pops up regularly in fantasy literature, games, television, music, and art, so it’s a good idea to get a little of it under your belt.
If you want to get a good quick culturally-relevant dose of Lovecraft, I recommend The Call of Cthulhu and Other Stories which is available in several editions. I listened to Naxos AudioBooks’ version read by William Roberts, which I downloaded at Audible.com for $4.95. This version (there are others) is 4½ hours long and contains four important Lovecraftian stories: “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Hound,” “The Dunwich Horror,” and “Dagon.” The narration is excellent; Mr. Roberts’s voice and cadence helped evoke a suitably sinister ambiance.
In “The Call of Cthulhu,” the first story in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos which was published in Weird Tales in 1928, we learn from our narrator that Cthulhu is a monster who lives in a sunken city in the South Pacific. He looks like a cross between a dragon, a giant octopus, and a man. He’s got a scaly body, tentacles, short wings, and the top of his head is vaguely human. You’ve probably seen some concept art. Cthulhu is related to the Elder Gods, an ancient race from space who will someday come back and wipe humanity off the Earth and restore themselves as rulers. There are secret religious cults on Earth who chant to Cthulhu and look forward to his return. The narrator of the story discovers all this while investigating some strange notes left by his granduncle, a professor who died unexpectedly. After his investigation, our narrator realizes that he knows too much — now he’s a target of the Cthulhu cult, too.
In the second story, “The Hound” (Weird Tales, 1924), a couple of friends who are bored with the normal pleasurable pursuits of life turn to graverobbing and build a museum filled with the objects of necromancy they uncover. When they steal a jade amulet from a grave, they begin hearing the baying of a hound, and things go badly from there. This story, which feels very much like Edgar Allan Poe and a little like The Hound of the Baskervilles, is notable because it’s the first to mention Lovecraft’s famous fictional grimoire, The Necronomicon.
The third story is “The Dunwich Horror” (Weird Tales, 1929). It tells the tale of Wilbur Whateley, the child of a deformed albino mother who grows up supernaturally fast in a backwater village in Massachusetts where, because of inbreeding, the natives have regressed into degeneracy and perversity. Nobody knows who Wilbur’s father is, but his grandfather seems to be indoctrinating him into some sort of evil. There are strange things going on in Wilbur’s room and the boy is obsessed with getting a copy of The Necronomicon. Eventually, things go bad, as we knew they would. This story is significant because it introduces Yog-Sothoth, one of the Outer Gods of the Cthulhu mythos, and gives us some more ideas about what’s in The Necronomicon.
In the last story, “Dagon” (The Vagrant, 1919) an opium-addicted mariner plans to kill himself because he’s haunted by visions of Dagon, the Philistine fish-god, whom he saw inside a volcano-like island in the South Pacific. He fears the creatures of the sea and worries about the future of mankind.
I have to admit that I’m not H.P. Lovecraft’s biggest fan. I’m occasionally in the mood for his creepy atmospheric tales, and sometimes he genuinely scares the heck out of me, but mostly I read him occasionally as an academic exercise — just to be well-versed enough in the Cthulhu mythos to get by. I find him too repetitive in theme, plot, and style. His narrators often sound like the same person (some curious white male scholar), the same images and motifs are used to frighten us, and often the same words are used, though sometimes it seems like Lovecraft has plundered the thesaurus for every possible synonym of words like rot, mold, decay, malignant, sinister, stench, charnel, repellant, abhorrent, repulsive, cursed, unholy, grotesque, terror… I could go on. In each story one or more characters are on the verge of a descent into madness due to the horrors or the “terrifying vistas of reality” they’ve seen.
Another issue is the elitism and racism — something I’ve noticed from other horror writers of the early 20th century. Lovecraft equates lack of beauty, physical deformity, and mixed-bloodedness with low intelligence, violent tendencies, and bad morals. He talks negatively about people who are chinless or have thick lips, coarse crinkly hair, or large pores. It doesn’t matter if we “expect” this from early 20th century writers — it’s still ugly.
But, as I said at the beginning, everyone must read a little Lovecraft and this is a great collection in audio format with an excellent reader.
Lovecraft's stories are among the best horror ever written, but the performance really makes the mood come alive with these. The stories are in small-ish pieces, so its easy to drop and come back to, or listen to one before bed.
For some reason, I had never read Lovecraft before - even though my mother had read all of his stories. This collection is incredible. The stories are creepy. But even so the performance really makes the stories. The music and the dramatic reading by Mr Roberts makes this a keeper. Something I will make a point of listening to again and again - especially for Halloween!
My first reading of HPL . I enjoyed the second and third stories best .
I thought "The Call of Cthulhu" would have been longer .
I enjoyed this but it might be a while before I come back to HPL as
I have other classics I have been meaning to get to .
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
Lovecraft himself regarded this short story as "rather middling—not as bad as the worst but full of cheap and cumbrous touches". Personally, that was kind of my take on the story. The book is primarily a narrative, almost void of any dramatic dialogue played by an exciting performer. The tone of the narrative is one of shocked excitement, grotesqueness and gothic horror.
Lovecraft was one of the first writers to create a mythos throughout his works, linking up disparate short stories to make a larger one. The monster Cthulhu is at the center of that mythos which contains a loose pantheon of ancient, powerful deities from space who once ruled the Earth and who have since fallen into a deathlike sleep.
Living characters in the story never set eyes on the actual creature. Instead, they see Cthulhu either in dreams or in artwork. The narrator of the story says that a statue of Cthulhu resembled, in part, an octopus, a dragon and a human-like or anthropomorphic creature. From this description, artists and sculptors have created artwork depicting the monster with a head that looks like an octopus and a massive pair of wings attached to his back. In the story we find that Cthulhu had once ruled the Earth and would someday do so again. We learn from the narrator that Cthulhu was trapped in a stone city beneath the ocean, but an earthquake pushed part of the city back above the surface. Although Cthulhu did not awaken, he was able to make contact with the minds of particularly creative or insane people unlike the minds of those more rational or mundane. We learn that after a massive storm, the city once again sank in the ocean, and Cthulhu apparently lies dreaming once more.
The story also introduces the Cult of Cthulhu, an organization of humans who are convinced of Cthulhu's eventual return who work to hasten it. Cthulhu will rise up and rule over Earth and mankind will cast aside concepts of civilization and inhibition. Chaos will ensue, and men will revel in their concupiscence.
I know that Lovecraft and his Cthulhu reign high in the ranks of SF literature. It is always difficult for a reviewer to give a piece such as this anything less that a maximally steller rating. But personally, the work has not stood the test of time (~1930). The writing is good enough but again, it's one that is almost totally narrative in style with a tone that never seems to stray from that of horror and the grotesque. That's just not my cup of tea. The narrator was good enough. His drama and inflection adequate. Perhaps that's just the best way to describe it: adequate... "rather middling—not as bad as the worst..."
I've heard about HP Lovecraft over the years and recently even tried reading some of his books, but just didn't get into it - I don't make a lot of time for reading so when I do it's something I will enjoy. However, I have plenty of time for audiobooks and this is a great one! The narrator does a great job with accents, tempo, vocal sound effects, and emotion. And I now know why Lovecraft is spoken so well of! Great, fun horror stories from the 1800s.
I would be much more inclined to recommend virtually anything else that Lovecraft wrote first. Call of Cthulhu has become his most well-known work, but it is not his best by a long shot. To be fair, this recording also includes The Dunwich Horror, which is a much better story, so your time would not be wasted if you bought this audiobook on sale. This reader does an excellent job of making the weaker works more engaging than the print versions, so I would probably recommend this version over the print version.
I would say so. I like Lovecraft, but I've never been crazy about Call of Cthulhu itself. Hearing William Roberts' performance, however, did improve the material in my esteem.
I would recommend this audiobook to those who want a glimpse into the twisted world of the Old Ones.
I would compare it to the other book I purchased: Herbert West, Reanimator. All four have a dense, thick and morbid similarity to them.
I liked the most at the very end of Dagon, when all he says is
None really, it's not meant to move you.
It's a very well read audiobook that I would recommend earnestly to anyone who's interested in the paranormal and power of the imagination as you, the reader, try to come to terms with a novel that never truly explains the NATURE of the villain.
Definitely top 10.
There were several great moments, but I think the most memorable would be the description of r'lyeh when the sailors discover it. I have always liked descriptive language and Lovecraft's command of English is really demonstrated throughout the work.
He is without a doubt, the perfect narrator for these types of stories. His reading made the stories really come alive.
I now understand the popularity of Lovecraft and the reverence that people have for his work. Great stuff.
I like to read and listen to Science, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Military, History, and Thillers.
It was a good read. It wasn't the scariest thing that I have ever read but there are some great stories included in the audiobook. The Call of Cthulhu was the most intriguing story but the other were well done as well. The stories flow really well and the narrator does an amazing job playing out the various characters.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Call of Cthulhu and Other Stories. The narrator was just perfect and did a great job with accents as well. I'd only "read" (listened to, actually) one other Lovecraft story before these, but I already knew I would love it. I love that Lovecraft gave his colleagues and everyone else permission to write in the "world" he'd created, the Mythos. I came to his work because I'd read many Lovecraftian poems and short-stories and was curious what was actually behind it. It's really lots of fun.
"A horror classic"
I've been a Lovecraft fan for years, so it was great to find an audio book version of his stories, especially as it's read by the great William Roberts, one of my favourite narrators.
Many of his stories are based in the "Cthulu Mythos", the premise that eons ago Earth was ruled by The Great Old Ones; vast, non-human creatures who even now slumber in other dimensions, waiting until they can re-enter our world, crush the kingdoms of man and once again take dominion of the planet.
Despite some attitudes that may seem a bit uncomfortably old fashioned to modern readers, these stories remain classics of their kind, deeply influential to subsequent writers and a lot of fun as well.
"Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!"
"Great introduction "
Having only heard of H.P Lovecraft before, but never had the time, I got myself this. What a great introduction to H.P Lovercraft's work it has been. The Cthulhu mythos was portrayed perfectly. It's been a long time since I got this engaged in a story. Can't wait to listen to more of his works.
Report Inappropriate Content