A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman
This is quite a brilliant one, especially the final twist that comes right at the end – that really bites the reader, given the play on our expectations! The world of the 19th Century set up by Gaiman, with what he tells us and the little snippets of advertisement (increasingly mythical and literary), is really brilliant and the Study in Emerald very much is reminiscent of A Study in Scarlet. Really well done, and another demonstration of Mr. Gaiman’s place as one of the top authors of today.
 
Tiger! Tiger! By Elizabeth Bear
Whilst very much a tale of the 19th century, this is hardly a Holmes story, despite the presence of Irene Adler; a tale of a hunt in the far reaches of the Empire, it’s well-written, fast-paced, mysterious, and of course incorporates some iconic Lovecraftian imagery, but overall it’s not a terribly Sherlockian tale. I do enjoy Bear’s writing, and her character-creation and use here is wonderful, however.
 
The Case of the Wavy Black Dagger by Steve Perry
Perry’s story is a little problematic. Not in its portrayal as a casually misogynistic Holmes, and nor in its portrayal of someone as brilliant as Holmes (though that IS a little problematic, because she doesn’t always act in line with that); in part it ignores Holmes’ abilities, and in part it doesn’t really fit with the Holmes mythos. However, it is a great story in terms of detection and counter-detection, and works rather well on its own terms; enjoyable and intellectually interesting.
 
A Case of Royal Blood by Steven-Elliot Altman
Altman’s story of the Old Ones crossing wits with Holmes through the Dutch Royal Family is quite remarkable, not least in its brilliant use and characterisation of H. G. Wells as a stand-in for Dr. Watson. The tone of the piece is really well-done, managing to balance the impulses to indulge in Lovecraftian, Wellsian and Doylesque prose with a more modern sensibility, and the plot is rather brilliant; not too obvious but still the reader can, with a little familiarity with Lovecraft, work out what’s happening. Rather wonderful.
 
The Weeping Masks by James Lowder
Lowder’s story of Watson’s Afghan experience is very much in the tradition of Lovecraft, especially in the non-white people in the story being the cultists of the Unknown. However, it’s a fascinating tale – it’s got some really good moments, and the discussion of logic and so on is really well played with, especially in the context of that which cannot be logical according to Lovecraftian canon. All in all, a fantastic tale – and the final lines take on a new, and interesting, twist if you know your Holmesian history.
 
Art in the Blood by Brian Stableford
Stableford’s story is the first that really takes note of the disjoint between Holmes’ and Lovecraft’s wordviews, and it brings in Mycroft as a sort of bridge between the two. It’s a horrific, terrible tale, told largely by two characters, one of whom is Sherlock himself and the other the client of the story; it’s got a creeping, insidious awfulness, and the use of Mycroft’s intellect as a reassurance for his brother is dealt with really well. The final parts of the story are awful and strange, and Stableford’s created a really good tribute to Lovecraft here.
 
The Curious Case of Miss Violet Stone by Poppy Z. Brite and David Ferguson
Brite and Ferguson’s story of Holmes’ investigation is a mixed one. Whilst it has some typical – indeed, stereotypical, to the point of overdone – elements of Holmes stories in, and whilst it does give an interesting account of the relation between Watson and Holmes, too much of it relies on Watson going against all his instincts, and on not showing us but telling us what’s happening; a large part of it is exposition, and there’s never any real feeling of threat. Not a great story.
 
The Adventure of the Antiquarian’s Neice by Barbara Hambly
This is the first really, truly creepy story in the anthology so far, and it really does get under the reader’s skin. Hambly’s story, drawing on New Weird and Old Weird styles more than it does on Doyle in parts, has two sections to it, really; the Doyle and the Lovecraft. But the two sections mesh and blend wonderfully, reason giving way to madness and strangeness, and the very strong writing style and ability of Hambly is wonderful – there’s terrific control here, and it makes for a fantastic, utterly creepy, story.
 
The Mystery of the Worm by John Pelan
This is another one that really does hit the mark on combining Lovecraft and Doyle, in leaving the end open-ended, with the hint of horrors to come. Pelan’s story is told magnificently, with build-up, subtlety, exposition and experienced horror mingled and mixed in such a way that the reader really feels what’s happening; indeed, Pelan makes the horror immediate and there’s a feeling that it could just leap out at the reader. Fantastic.
 
The Mystery of the Hanged Man’s Puzzle by Paul Finch
Finch’s story is a perfect Holmes story, reminiscent in its start of the recent film despite being several years its senior. It’s a fantastic tale of deduction and action mingled together into a brilliant, awful whole with a real punch to it, and the combination of action and intellect is nothing short of brilliant. The premise is well-done, and the characters are excellent, straight from Lovecraft; for all that, unlike the previous two stories, this is much more Doyle than Lovecraft, and benefits from that contrast and variety.
 
The Horror of Many Faces by Tim Lebbon
This story incorporates elements of the Ripper mythology into the Lovecraft-Holmes duology. It’s a terrifying, shocking story that builds and shifts and morphs as the reader progresses through it, with Lebbon constructing a true sense of awful and appalling horror in the reader whose target for said horror changes as the story goes on. It’s a really freaky tale, this one, and its ending is possibly the single most haunting one so far in the anthology.
 
The Adventures of the Arab’s Manuscript by Michael Reaves
This story’s less strong, on some levels – in part Reaves leaves Holmes a clue or two that actually don’t work (the famous Hamsa, or Hand of Fatima, rather undermines some of the deduction Holmes does), and in part it’s a matter of how it’s just a bait-and-switch on Watson. Reeves seems to have some idea of how to do Lovecraft, and some of Doyle, but this story really hasn’t come together well, and is significantly dull and largely without the strengths of either writer.
 
The Drowned Geologist by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Kiernan’s story is rather wonderful. It’s subtle, gentle, and not overtly horrific; indeed, the suggestion of horror is much stronger and indeed more effective than the depiction would be, especially in terms of some of the matters mentioned within the story. Kiernan’s got a wonderful character in Dr. Logan, and she uses him, as narrator, really rather well; indeed, it’s a letter that really packs a significant punch to it, telling a strong, compelling and disturbing (and impossible) tale to Watson. Really rather good.
 
A Case of Insomnia by John P. Vourlis
This is quite a nice one. It seems a typical Holmes case, and Vourlis certainly treats it as such, with evidence gathered, travel, people questioned, and a series of possible explanations ruled out; further, Vourlis withholds from going down the full Lovecraftian squamous route, rather going for a more strange but investigable opponent for Holmes. There’s a brilliant note of whimsy struck at the end of the story very reminiscent of Doyle but tinged with more than a touch of Lovecraft, than really gives the story that extra push to make it brilliant.
 
The Adventure of the Voorish Sign by Richard A. Lupoff
This one’s not so great. Lupoff abuses Watson something dreadful, and I really do dislike the slow companion portrayals common to so much post-Doyle Holmes-lore. There’s also a really unhealthy use of gypsies, not just bordering on but actively deciding to revel in racism. However, the story does have its moments, and Watson himself does have a couple of occasions to display some skill; but overall this is not a terribly good story, with little really to show the strengths of either the Lovecraft or Doyle which influenced it.
 
The Adventure of Exham Priory by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre
MacIntyre’s story is rather excellent, incorporating standard Lovecraft tropes and lore with the characters of the Holmes tales; Moriarty is excellently portrayed and used, with his strengths and weaknesses clearly highlighted, and both Watson and Holmes are shown in a good light (Watson gets to do some deducting for once!). Indeed, this story is one of the strongest so far for Watson; MacIntyre portrays him as intelligent and curious, and a good companion to the aloof Holmes. This is, then, a story that is creepy and malevolent in atmosphere and excellent in execution.
 
Death Did Not Become Him by David Niall Wilson and Patricia Lee Macomber
This is a fantastic, fascinating story mixing Holmes, Lovecraft and Kabbalah (in the form of the golem). Wilson and Macomber’s tale of mystery and the intrigue strikes me, in some ways, as not terribly Lovecraftian, but on the other hand it not only incorporates that mainstay of the Mythos, the Necronomicon, but also has settings reminiscent of Lovecraft – an abandoned asylum especially. Indeed, the story really does work well as a combination of the two styles, with a very different take on it as any previous work in the volume.
 
Nightmare In Wax by Simon Clark
 This is a fantastic story, told in the first person by three different voices, with an obvious twist marring an otherwise brilliant story (though, I suppose, both twists are both obvious and intended to be so, so perhaps not so much marring as altering).  Clark's story once more captures the essence of Moriarty perfectly, as well as of Holmes; indeed, Holmes' weaknesses are very much central to the story, as is Moriarty's personality and arrogance.  This is a more interesting story than many of the others both in its style, how its told, and in the content, in its descriptions and explorations; it also seems less dark, in some ways, though with an incredibly dark end.
 
Overall
Reaves and Pelan have put together an anthology that, whilst a little mixed at times, tends towards the better end of the spectrum; the mixture of stories, in terms of style, period, focus, and execution is a good one, with different aspects of Doyle and Lovecraft both coming to the fore, and a variety of different ideas about who Holmes himself is being presented too, which is of some interest.  I'd say that a fan of Doyle shouldn't really be too attracted to this purchase, as all too often Holmes breaks away from canonical interpretations of him towards a more mystical version, but fans of Lovecraft will want to own this anthology.
The Walker in the Cemetery by Ian Watson
This is a very Lovecraft story; perhaps a little too anti-science, a little too obvious, and a little too formulaic to be very good perhaps. Cthulhu’s back and apparently likes to play with his food – which is an interesting conceit; that note of originality is the shining part of Watson’s tale, the psychological horror drawn out by the cruelty of the Old One. It’s a bit of a bland, emotionless tale, too obviously intending to invoke horror to manage it and too crude to really be serious. Not a great start.
 
Sanctuary by Don Webb
This is a much better story than Watson’s; Webb’s story of a town in the time of Cthulhu has the potential to be brilliant, and with the discussion of what happens to rationality and Christianity in the time when the Old Ones return is fascinating. It’s also got some wonderful ideas about where they are – really creepy and almost believable ones. Overall, indeed, Webb’s story, with some excellent characters, is relatively good; however it also indulges in some clichés and folly that really don’t work… especially in regards to the priest; and the crudity takes a lot away. Not terribly good, overall.
 
Her Acres of Pastoral Playground by Mike Allen
This strange pastoral story is really disturbing; whilst centred on a family and, indeed, quite fascinating, it has really dark under- and overtones, which build to a brilliant conclusion. The inevitability, madness, and strange occurrences are quite wonderfully Lovecraftian, and the slow revelations of more and more that has happened are incredible – as is the post-madness element, absolutely genius. Allen’s story is undeniably both the most Lovecraftian so far and the most brilliant.
 
Spherical Trigonometry by Ken Asamatsu
This story’s quite good, about the madness induced by the return of the Old Ones and the inevitable failure of measures to seek safety from them; Asamatsu’s vision of the return of the Old Ones is a grim one, but based very much in the post-Lovecraftian works and esoterica; it also brings in some fascinating ideas. However, the ending is far too neat in an annoying, happy way which really doesn’t fit the essential hopelessness of his story… let down by that, it can’t be called great, but at least decent.
 
What Brings the Void by Will Murray
 This one’s a fantastic tale, actually; Murray has a brilliant sense of rising and creeping dread, of inhumanity, of imminent annihilation, and indeed the sense of a world only just gone mad is incredible. His use of the remote viewing experiments of the US government are quite fun and add to the atmosphere of unreality, although they do take from the realism of the story. In the end, the creation of the character and the understanding, both of the Lovecraft mythos and of the Old Ones themselves, is incredible.
 
The New Pauline Corpus by Matt Cardin
This is a strange one; Cardin takes theology and aligns it to Cthulhu – through madness and a lens of unbelief, admittedly; he imagines the Catholic Church being forced to realign its doctrines in the face of the appearance of the Old Ones, and that concept is what runs through the story. It has a disjointed prose style which makes reading it confusing, and it is very unclear (as well as actually theologically pretty weak and incoherent…); all in all, whilst the concept is fascinating, Cardin fails to effectively put it into practice.
 
Ghost Dancing by Darrell Schweitzer
Schweitzer’s story is decent, though hardly fantastic. It captures the panic and chaos that the return of the Old Ones would produce, and it captures the idea of a world gone mad with religious fervour – to make the Old Ones leave; however, it also has rather too hopeful an element in it, and indeed the Old Ones themselves seem strangely absent from the story except as names. On the other hand the characters are excellent and this makes the story actually rather good.
 
This is How the World Ends by John R. Fultz
This is quite a well-written story; it captures the horror and claustrophobia of Lovecraft, involves a Mad Max element in its post-Apocalypticism, and has a transformative element that’s a brilliant twist. It’s a dark and horrific tale, with characters whom we come to identify with only to be thrown by twists dropped in over the course of the tale. However, it fails to really give you a sense of anything – even those characters to whom we are drawn are very sketchy. Good, but sparse, perhaps?
 
The Shallows by John Langan
This is quite an interesting piece – though really it has nothing to do with the Cthulhu Mythos or return of the Old Ones, which simply act as a background element; indeed they are largely irrelevant to the human narrative of the piece, and that human narrative is not a terribly well-written one either. Indeed, Langan’s whole story is rather out of keeping with the anthology and not terribly exciting; whilst it is definitely well written – or rather, the monologue is – the other events are not so well done, with their slightly purpling prose being more pastiche of Lovecraft than tribute.
 
Such Bright and Risen Madness in Our Names by Jay Lake
This is a decent story; it starts slowly and unpromisingly, to my mind, but Lake’s actually got something really impressive going here. The world built around the rise of the Old Ones and their return, and the idea of them as careless, “narcoleptic” masters of the Earth, is less fascinating than the split that Lake foresees in humanity – a split I can’t help but agree with him on; and the idea of that split, and what it would lead to, is the truly fascinating element of the story – as is the simple humanity of people even in the face of the Old Ones. Great stuff.
 
The Seals of New R’lyeh by Gregory Frost
Frost’s story is brilliant. It’s a heist tale (yes, a heist, after Cthulhu’s ascendance!) and yet it is also, somewhat, about an attempt to resist the Old Ones; the characters are typical of the heist drama, and all in all it’s a great combination of humour, bumbling incompetence and brilliance. It also manages to get in the numinous and nameless terror that is so sadly lacking in much of this anthology; Frost really does pull off a great piece of work here!
 
The Holocaust of Ecstasy by Brian Stableford
Stableford’s tale is utterly strange – utterly, utterly so; he creates a weird vision of the post-Cthulhu world that’s actually rather, indeed, incredibly beautiful, and so very alien. The authorial hand shows itself in the thoughts of the viewpoint-character, but it works incredibly well; discovering the world with him, peeling back layers of Mythos and mythology, uncovering the truth over time. It’s a brilliant, beautiful and intensely unsettling story, and I think it is the highlight of this collection.
 
Vastation by Laird Barron
This is a strange story, and not one I’m a fan of. It’s more VanderMeer than Lovecraft, with a fungus-focus, and the central character is unlikeable, unsympathetic and more than a little insane; indeed, the whole story could be described in those terms. Whilst an interesting concept – and indeed with interesting futurism – Barron’s story fails to capitalise on those elements and lacks a certain clarity, or sense, or even plot, really; in the end it’s a failure as a story, to put into practice an interesting concept and world.
 
Nothing Personal by Richard A. Lupoff
This is quite a good story; it explains what the Old Ones are, and where they come from – in terms quite alien to Lovecraft, in no small part because they hadn’t been invented then – and also has a really incredible character and setting of far-future SF with a cosmonaut. It’s actually a really well-written and well-told story and Lupoff marshals his concepts incredibly well, keeping hold of the essentials all the time; perhaps the most brilliant element is the end and the thinking that drives it. A really good psychological piece.
 
Remnants by Fred Chappell
Chappell's story is a really rather brilliant one; it has psychological insight (indeed, the description of the autistic mind and thought-process is incrdibly insightful and wonderful) and it combines this with a plot that, whilst actually vastly reducing the threat of the Old Ones, still leaves them dangerous, and indeed, universe-threatening; it's a brilliant tale, well-told and suspenseful, with a real power to it and a really interesting idea - both of what the motive of the Old Ones is, and of how they act.  A stand-out story.
 
Overall­
Having just read Lovecraft Unbound and the excellent selection made by Ellen Datlow, Schweitzer's anthology is much more disappointing; whilst there are strong stories included, and indeed some really excellent ones, it's a much more mixed bag, with a stronger feel of pastiche than tribute; of simply recycling Lovecraft, rather than using him as a jumping-off point. There is, at times, a sense of horror and suspense; and the unknowable horrors of the Old Ones are actually there in some of these stories, but what this anthology mainly drives home is that, in not telling us what happens when the stars are right, Lovecraft was doing something very clever: he wasn't forcing himself to dilute the pure horror of the unknown, as these are.  I wouldn't recommend it, honestly.
The Crevasse by Dale Bailey & Nathan Ballingrud
Bailey and Ballingrud use the same frozen setting as Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness to build up a nameless frozen horror in the mind of the viewpoint-character, Garner; the three main figures, Garner, Connelly, and Bishop are really well-drawn and characterful, with Garner’s history as bleak as any Lovecraftian wounded figure. In the end, the numinous, un-fleshed-out and unknown horror with physical and mental horrific elements combined is brilliant; as an opening story, it’s utterly Lovecraft and utterly stellar.
 
The Office of Doom by Richard Bowes
This is just a really spooky one. Bowes uses the Necronomicon straight from Lovecraft – and indeed includes mentions of Lovecraft’s work explicitly in the story; perhaps The Office of Doom could be described as metafictional, and indeed Borges-influenced as well as with Lovecraft bearing down on Bowes. The story is really well-written, what with our librarian narrator and the other characters, disturbing implications and all; this slow thriller is a brilliant story.
 
Sincerely, Petrified by Anna Tambour
This one’s quite brilliant, Tambour’s story about the power of fear – and perhaps the power of the human psyche to be suggested and opened up to self-sabotage – really matching with psychological theory. Her concept is brilliant, and the story’s development and growth from humble beginnings to a wonderful, awful denouement is absolutely stunning; especially the writing style, with switching viewpoints and the various styles of communication involved. Really creepy.
 
The Din of Celestial Birds by Brian Evenson
This is a really weird and freaky one, and again very Lovecraft – right down to the racial (though, unlike H. P., Evenson avoids a racist) element. Evenson’s story builds and builds with a slowly increasing horror and series of revelations, and with transformations and strange infectiousness that is very much reminiscent of some of Lovecraft’s work; and the named horror, a trapped evil accidentally released, is very H. P. indeed. This is a great story.
 
The Tenderness of Jackals by Amanda Downum
Downum’s story, somehow, doesn’t strike me as Lovecraftian; or not typically so. On the other hand it should – the monsters, the horror, the awfulness, the sense of history and of place; indeed, the very atmosphere, despite the German setting, is incredibly Lovecraftian. Perhaps the ending, which would never happen in the works of H. P. himself, and perhaps the slightly different take have combined to obscure it; either way, this is an incredibly strong and powerful piece.
[N.B: It also reminds me of the Crossbow Cannibal case this year – some really strange parallels!]
 
Sight Unseen by Joel Lane
Lane’s story needs the explanation at the end to really work, but once that’s been read, it clicks into place; it’s about the growing isolation of one man from the world – seen through the prism of the isolation of another man from his family and the same world. It’s a creepy, spooky story at the end, building up slowly to a sudden climax; overall not terribly well told, although very detailed, but relying (for me at least) too much on the explanation to work. Not bad, but hardly great.
 
Cold Water Survival by Holly Phillips
We are once more back At the Mountains of Madness, with a tale on an iceberg; it’s a really strange one, slightly near-future SFnal I suppose, but the sense of creeping, dawning, growing, maddening horror is absolutely real and essential. Phillips’ story builds incredibly slowly, despite having a powerful moment early on – and the structure aids that building as we see things happen and change day by day. It’s a really disturbing, creepy story.
 
Come Lurk With Me and Be My Love by William Browning Spencer
This is a strange, somewhat odd story; it seems to use the idea of the Deep Ones and the Elder Gods, and even the devouring, in something of a novel way – plus it has a great twist on the idea of intelligent design. However, it’s not really horrific as a story – indeed the sense of strange terror and horror pervading much of the anthology so far is strangely absent here, and its lack is telling. It simply isn’t as good as the preceding stories, I think.
 
Houses Under the Sea by Caitlín R. Kiernan
This Dagon-based, marine story is utterly brilliant; Kiernan’s is one of the strongest of the collection so far, powerful and vast in its scope yet intensely human, emotionally moving, and brilliantly written. The writing style matches the narrator-character, the events are simple and small in scope with huge implications, and the mixture of elements is excellent; it builds slowly and achronologically coming to its final climax. Wonderfully subtle, horrific, and – if I may appropriate the word – numinous.
 
Machines of Concrete Light and Dark by Michael Cisco
Cisco’s story is rather akin to Downum’s, or at least there’s a thematic resonance there; but Cisco’s is a much darker, stranger affair. He spends a long time building up an atmosphere of horror, and indeed impending doom – which pays off in the end. The incredible aesthetic and descriptive power Cisco demonstrates creates a wonderful atmosphere fitting the horrific conclusion perfectly. Great stuff.
 
Leng by Marc Laidlaw
This story reminds me significantly of Jeff VanderMeer’s City of Saints and Madmen and Finch in its fungus-centric tale. However, this is far more inhuman, horrific, and old weird; Laidlaw uses a nameless power, a dark and disturbing buildup. There are no Old Gods or Dark Ones in the conventional Lovecraftian sense but there is a power, and it is an awful one – and the ending of the story is brilliant, with its pseudo-conclusion. It involves beauty, scientific detail, and works perfectly.
 
In the Black Mill by Michael Chabon
Chabon’s tale of human horror, involving industrial evils, Dark Gods in a very Lovecraftian sense, and anthropological/archaeological research is a brilliant synthesis of so many themes of H. P. It’s an ugly, slow tale, which builds up in a dark way to a wonderful conclusion; the human element is mixed in its goodness and evil, and also in its approach to life. The bleak, grim conclusion is perfect for the story, and works incredibly well.
 
One Day, Soon by Lavie Tidhar
Tidhar’s story is quietly brilliant. Influenced by his Jewish heritage – there is Holocaust-imagery here disguised thinly at most – and directly challenging the racism of Lovecraft, Tidhar brings together this world and an alternate history in which the Germans invaded Palestine in 1942; the mix of thin walls between the worlds and evil wreaked by a book is incredibly Lovecraft, and the sense of a mental illness affecting only one person at a time is quite strong. It’s really brilliant work.
 
Commencement by Joyce Carol Oates
Oates’ story is not one I’m a fan of. It takes a long time to build up and create the sense of the ordinary that the final sections pervert totally, and it uses Masonic symbolry to foreshadow the strange rituals involved. In the end, it is a ridiculous story; it takes too long to build up, uses the psychology to that end in a contrived way, and – whilst juxtaposing some interesting things, mainly civilised/savage and future/past – Oates fails to achieve much.
 
Vernon, Driving by Simon Kurt Unsworth
Unsworth’s story is a realist, rather than fantastic, tale, unlike everything else in this collection so far. It’s a horrific story of humanity, with a brilliant direct Lovecraft pastiche in the form of Jay; it has some fantastic psychological insight, the build-up of personality and psychology in the story is great, and the gothic, brilliant sense of awe Unsworth creates is incredible. This is one of the best stories in this collection despite being one of the furthest, except in its claustrophobia, from Lovecraft himself.
 
The Recruiter by Michael Shea
Shea’s story, involving resurrection, inhumanity, and a nameless, numinous and marine Old One is very Lovecraft. He creates a sense of inevitability and powerlessness that is absolutely incredible, and the futility of everything is brilliant; however, Shea collapses everything with the hopeful ending and that rather betrays the Lovecraftian power involved. Shea’s story, then, is wonderful… until the last paragraph, when it betrays itself completely.
 
Marya Nox by Gemma Files
The Christian overtones to this story, and the wonderful historicity of the pagan/Christian synthesis, is something I can’t help but love; and the fact that it’s involved in a fantastic story by Files, a small-scale tale of an unknown, nameless power replaced (sort-of) by Christianised worship is brilliant. Indeed, the format of the piece – an interview, retrospective – lends it a certain power; and the whole thing is just amazing.
 
Mongoose by Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear
This is an odd tribute to Lewis Carroll in science fictional form, with Lovecraftian overtones; really brilliant work by Monette and Bear with a build-up of the background to the world, a sense of evil, and a great degree of ugliness and things-from-Beyond incorporated into it. However, it’s the characters which work best and the story is character-driven in an incredible way; it’s a great piece of work, though with far too happy an ending for a Lovecraft story.
 
Catch Hell by Laird Barron
This one’s disturbing, strange, Lovecraftian, pagan, and very very Christian. Barron’s story involves the Devil – no holds barred Old Bill – and it’s a slow build up to a conclusion far from inevitable and, indeed, very strange; it seems to be one of the weirder and more disturbing stories in the collection, very vivid in its imagery and also very horrific. It is also a little prurient, but we can leave that aside in favour of noting its overreliance (in an H. P. story) on a very Christian morality. Good, but not great.
 
That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable by Nick Mamatas
This is another one of the stories here which mentions a Lovecraftian monstrosity by name, though again, only one; it’s a post-Mythos story, in the sense that it’s after the return of the Old Ones, too. It’s an interesting, well-told story, brief and well-constructed, hopeless and inevitable; claustrophobic, hopeless and faithless too. All in all very Lovecraft, and very disturbing, though not that strong – above average at best.
 
Conclusion
Datlow’s selection of stories for this anthology is incredible; despite a few stories I didn’t enjoy, and a couple more I thought were merely good, this is an actually honestly outstanding collection. The best element is that it isn’t a series of pastiches; it might include one or two, but as a rule the authors and stories Datlow has included simply use the Lovecraft canon and Mythos as a jumping-off point, rather than the be-all-and-end-all, instead writing tributes to Lovecraft. Honestly, for fans of the Mythos and others, this is highly recommended; incredibly so.

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February 2012

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