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Aklo

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

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Aklo

https://www.amazon.com/Lovecraft-Country-Novel-Matt-Ruff/dp/0062292064/

 

My interest was stoked for this novel a month or so before its release and when I saw the wonderful hardcover with its faded colorful design at my local Books A Million, I decided it HAD to be mine! Snapped up the copy, started reading that night and was half way through by the weekend.

And then a bit of fatigue sat in. I hadn't realized the "novel" was actually a collection of short stories tied loosely together at the end by a short story that gathered all the protagonists together, and the fact that all the protagonists of each story were alive and well by the end might hint as to my other complaint with the work.

 

I've read terrible Lovecraft-inspired stories, and horrible Chaosium collected anthologies, but I've never felt...well...baited by a release as much as I was with this book. I'm not familiar with Mr. Ruff, and I haven't read his other books, but while the cover promised me Lovecraftian Action and Intrigue set against the struggles of Race in Jim Crow America, I found an abundance of the latter, and well, not nearly enough of the former. The stories are set up nicely, but have little in the way of pay-off, there isn't really any character development to speak of, and while the horrors of the Jim Crow era are mentioned time and again, you never get the feeling Ruff has A. Read Lovecraft, or B. Is interested in showing us anything remotely Lovecraftian.

 

His emotion and gravitas are saved for the uncomfortable moments with the racist policemen, villagers, or cultists, while truly interesting concepts of Mythos reinterpretation and Secret Society magic are thrown out casually and never really followed up on or pursued. There also isn't really any tension in these stories since by the close of the second story you realize none of the protagonists are going to die or suffer much. It just felt jarringly tone-deaf, in regards both to Lovecraft, his fiction, and the human horrors the novel intended to explore.

 

This is more of warning to somebody waiting to buy the book who may be disappointed, or a opening of a discussion with others who have read the book, not a bashing of the book or an invitation for another "Racist Lovecraft" discussion, but I was genuinely dissapointed, and hope I fare better with The Ballad of Black Tom.

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Galbraith

I heard Ballad of Black Tom was really good. I was a bit leery of it, but I read some good reviews. I haven't read it myself, though.

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JohnGoodrich

Really? I felt like this was one of the best Lovecraftian novels I've ever read. Yes, it's light on the mythos and name-dropping, but there's definitely Lovecraftian activity going on. I liked the well-drawn characters, I found the setting to be a refreshing change from so many of the standard Lovecraftian pastiche tropes.

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Eyrelliah

Hey Aklo,

I've just finished it a wee while ago. I think I agree in what's not great about it - it seemed very sparse in description, and when promising Lovecraft it delivered CoC cult action. I still liked it though, but yes it doesn't really feel very lovecraftian at all. It mainly feels like a (very good) but sparsely written horror story about being black in the 50's in America, spiced up with a few nice but gentle weird horror riffs.

 

Overall I have recommended it, and I can understand the Lovecraft in the title feeling like a miss-sell. If you call it "interesting Jim Crow Horror Story with Hints of Lovecraft Spin-Offs" it's probably more accurate.

I also get a feeling with a lot of sparsely-written novels that they're trying and failing to write American Gods, but that's neither here nor there.

 

Overall, would recommend, agree that it's not really Lovecraft.

 

@silver key, I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was definitely different, and worthy in that regard - just didn't quite have the crunchiness I wanted.

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Aklo

I also get a feeling with a lot of sparsely-written novels that they're trying and failing to write American Gods, but that's neither here nor there.

 

This range VERY true to me, though I hand't thought about till you mentioned it. Agreed, not the worst pastiche or anything, I guess my expectations and the author's intentions just didn't match very well.^^

 

I particularly liked the first arc's use of biblical references and appreciated the literal references a great deal. But I do agree it didn't seem to have the "crunchiness" I was looking for. 

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CTPhipps

I really enjoyed it but I'm of the school of thought you shouldn't try to ape Lovecraft's work. You should just take his toys and put your own spin on them.


You can never out Lovecraft Lovecraft after all.

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