Sunday, April 19, 2015

Review: World War Cthulhu

Finished World War Cthulhu.

As the name implies, this is an anthology of (to quote the subtitle) "Lovecraftian war stories".   While it does mostly stick to this theme, there are a few arguable cases, but eh, not a big deal.   I'm reading this for the Lovecraftian part of that phrase, not for the war.   Most of the stories here are just okay.   Not bad, just not great, either.   There are a few standouts, though.

First, the one story that really, really annoyed me: "The Bullet and the Flesh" by David Conyers and David Kernot.   Conyers' series hero, Harrison Peel, and another spec ops ubermensch try to stop a Zimbabwean colonel who's purchased a xenobiological weapon.   I've not read Kernot before, but I've read Conyers, and this is of a piece with his other work.   He writes like a Tom Clancy ghostwriter.   His weapons are more detailed then his characters' personalities, his prose is bland, and he has absolutely no sense of either atmosphere or setting.

On the good side: Darrel Schweitzer comes perilously close to knocking it out of the park with "Stragglers from Carrhae."   Two Roman legionnaires trying to escape from the disaster at Carrhae encounter high strangeness in the Arabian desert.   The story doesn't quite gel fully, but it's still excellent.

Another story that almost but not quite makes it to the top tier: "The Procyon Project" by Tim Curran.   A badly injured marine, both physically and spiritually, returns to the US during World War II, where he gets a job as night watchman at an interesting facility.   I was pleasantly surprised by this one, because I hated the previous Tim Curran book I read, Hive, but this is very good.   The first half is just exquisite, with an excellent, appealingly human character, and a steadily mounting sense of dread.   Unfortunately, the second half, as the shit hits the fan, doesn't live up to the first.   This would be a stronger story if he'd just chopped off the last bit and left it as "weird stuff happened, I'm not telling you why."

While those three are the big standouts, most of these stories are just okay.   If you're looking for something to kill a few hours, this will fit the bill.   On the balance, I give this 3/5 stars.

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