Thursday, 19 September 2013

Shadows Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft and Others

Edited by Stephen Jones

Welcome to the town of Innsmouth, New England. Although it’s not as welcoming as you may like. A decaying, half abandoned fishing village hiding strange treasure, fishy looking people and unspeakable evil lurking in nearby sea. 

Innsmouth is the dismal setting of H.P. Lovecraft’s eerie story The Shadow over Innsmouth, a horrifying tale written in 1931 which helped spawn the mythos behind Cthulhu and other horrid denizens of the sea. This anthology gathers together seventeen other horror writers and their tales inspired by the Innsmouth original. 

The authors are Basil Cooper, Jack Yeovil, Guy N. Smith, Adrian Cole, D.F. Lewis, Ramsey Campbell, David A. Sutton, Peter Tremayne, Kim Newman, Brian Mooney, Brian Stableford, Nicholas Royle, David Langford, Michael Marshall Smith, Brian Lumley and Neil Gaiman. 

Some of the stories are based in the original setting of Innsmouth, New England, whilst others take the concept to other coastal regions such as the south of England and Ireland. A main theme running through the stories is the descriptions of the Innsmouth inhabitants, many bearing the Innsmouth look; i.e. bulgy eyes, large flat heads, general fish-like or amphibian exterior. 

Not only is their unusual appearance notable but also their animosity towards strangers, their secrecy and their longings for the sea. Combined with the detailed descriptions of the decrepit town itself, most of the stories were creepy and unnerving in parts. I really enjoyed how each writer adapted and evolved the Innsmouth mythology, especially the creatures, for their own tales, which is something Lovecraft encouraged during his lifetime. 

I also liked how the interpretations varied in eras of time. Some stories were set in or around the late twenties when the original story was set, providing old fashioned, darkly styled tales. Other stories were spread through the years into modern times, involving the use of science and technology, all of which were interesting and equally disturbing variations of the Innsmouth tale. 

My favourite story other than Lovecraft’s original was Neil Gaiman’s Only the End of the World Again, whose mix of Innsmouth mythology combined with a werewolf lead and his quirky writing style made for an entertaining yet grisly read. 

This is a great collection of Innsmouth short stories, chilling and engaging, enhanced by some awesome artwork illustrating the weird and wonderful Cthulhu mythology. 

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