Monday, October 10, 2011

THE MASK OF CTHULHU by August Derleth

The Mask of Cthulhu is a 1958 collection of six horror stories by August Derleth. These include “The Return of Hastur,” “The Whippoorwills in the Hills,” “Something in Wood,” “The Sandwin Compact,” “The House in the Valley,” and “The Seal of R’lyeh.”

All six stories are part of the Cthulhu Mythos originated by H. P. Lovecraft – “The Return of Hastur” is based on Lovecraft’s notes. Derleth says in the introduction to this book that these stories are a tribute to Lovecraft, and that they came about from Lovecraft urging his friends to expand the mythos.

Derleth is no Lovecraft. The elements that made Lovecraft’s stories so effective – atmosphere, tone, mystery – Derleth fails at. His stories are obvious, predictable, and melodramatic – Lovecraft’s lurking horrors don’t lurk here; you can’t go down to the basement without tripping over one. Compounding the problem, these stories have far too much in common with one another. If you’ve read one, you’ve pretty much read all six.

The Mask of Cthulhu might appeal to those enamored with the Cthulhu Mythos, but it just isn’t good horror.