“Lovecraftian” is a mythos that feels overly familiar to me and therefore has to be done really well for me to fall under its spell. By “done really well,” I mean take Lovecraft and portray it in a contemporary way that conveys the feelings of mystery, dread, and horror, without sounding hackneyed or borrowed. TRUE DETECTIVE played with the Yellow King mythos in just such a way. A more direct and just as powerful example is THE ENGINES OF SACRIFICE by James Chambers.
This novella collection tells four dark stories firmly rooted in the Lovecraft mythos but told in a rewardingly fresh, direct style. Imagine somebody took everything you loved about Lovecraft, pared out everything that made it boring or dated (like presenting male characters who are decidedly masculine but not toxic), and then made it fresh and contemporary; the result is James Chambers’ excellently poignant horror collection.
All four stories are remarkable, but my favorite hands down is the title novella, “The Engines of Sacrifice.” Like the other stories, it stems from Lovecraft’s mythos while taking it to an insane level and rolls out like a thriller with numerous psychological as well as physical twists and turns. In this story, writer Rowley Cray lives in a world slowly gone mad, controlled by a genocidal totalitarian government, and subsumed by Lovecraftian creatures. The dead tell him their stories to share, but they want more; they have a very special purpose for him. Unfortunately, so does the government. Navigating various parties who see his stories as the key to altering the reality they live in, Cray must capture the power of words and make the ultimate choice.
If you enjoy horror or Lovecraft in particular, there’s plenty in this collection to enjoy.