Saturday, October 18, 2014

Review: The Ithaqua Cycle

I recently finished The Ithaqua Cycle, one of Chaosium's themed anthologies, edited by Robert M. Price.

Like all of Chaosium's Cycle anthologies, this one begins with a hefty helping of older tales that most dedicated Mythos fans have already read.   No Lovecraft this time, but we have Derleth's Ithaqua tales and Algernon Blackwood's "The Wendigo".   I'll skip over them, given how well-known they are.

More interesting is George Allen Eastland's "The Thing from Outside".   Like "The Wendigo", this predates Derleth's creation of Ithaqua, but may have been one of the inspirations (we know Derleth read it).   It feels remarkably modern for a horror story written in the '20s, in particular the way the main characters' own senses begin to betray them, until they can't tell what is real and what is illusion, and whether the horror truly exists or they are simply going mad.   It's pretty good, though not great.

Next is Brian Lumley's "Born of the Winds".   Something that puzzles me about Lumley is that I hate his novels - I think they're dreadful - but he's actually decent as a short story writer.   Not great, but decent, and one or two of his short stories have really stuck with me.   This one doesn't rise to that height, but while "Born of the Winds" is nothing special, but it's a perfectly serviceable Mythos tale.

This is really true of most of the stories in this volume: they're nothing special, lying between adequate and good, but none rising beyond that.   The best is the last, James Ambuehl's "Wrath of the Wind-Walker"; the story has no real surprises - anyone who's read the preceding stories in the volume knows how this well end - but it's well-crafted and has some very neat touches.

All in all, a serviceable Mythos collection.   3/5 stars.

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