Sci Fi Reading Project: Updates & Mini-Reviews 09/21/2015

Got a chance to read a few more from the list:

  1. Lovecraft: The three stories on the list are

 ‘The Call of Cthulhu’

‘A Whisperer in Darkness’

‘Shadow Out of Time’

Two comments: Lovecraft is a very good writer, and these stories are properly classed as Sci Fi. The Universe he builds is much like Star Trek’s, if the Borg and the Q were having a very bad space-time-continuum unit. There are bad guys, then there are BAD guys.

All are told in as first-person recollections by men who have touched, somehow, eldritch horrors from outside our time and world. Each narrator is presented as just the sort of serious-minded gentleman that wouldn’t possibly make this sort of thing up. In fact, they might as well all be the same guy, from a character-development perspective.

The technique is to have the narrator repeat at regular intervals how unbelievable their tale is, how they themselves don’t believe it, but yet…. Eventually, there comes a climax in which we learn, like Brandon in Galaxy Quest, that it’s all true.

Won’t give any details of the stories themselves because it wouldn’t take much to spoil them, except to say that The Call of Cthulhu introduces the idea of an ancient lurking evil that is hinted at in all the old stories and cults around the world; A Whisperer in Darkness has got something unnatural living in your rugged, creepy and isolated Vermont mountains and valleys; and The Shadow Out of Time has got body-snatching and amnesia. Don’t know if these things are original with Lovecraft, but he certainly gives them a run.

While I admire the writing, and Lovecraft’s ability to build toward a climax, I’m not into horror, and did not find these stories scary. Except for this passage from The Shadow Out of Time:

The Great Race seemed to form a single loosely knit nation or league, with major institutions in common, though there were four definite divisions. The political and economic system of each unit was a sort of fascistic socialism, with major resources rationally distributed, and power delegated to a small governing board elected by the votes of all able to pass certain educational and psychological tests.

Chilling. Hard to sleep thinking the Universe could be peopled by such creatures!

2. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau

This story has a bit of unavoidable failure of the suspension of disbelief, because the plot hangs on biological and mental assumptions that, today, just won’s fly. Yet, it is a good enough story to suck you in anyway, and, hey, it’s Sci Fi, it doesn’t need to make perfect sense.

More first person narrative, more ‘nobody will believe this’, more remarkably serious and sober witness to the unbelievable. There is an isolated tropical island, a unbalanced genius, his dissolute assistant, and the unfortunate cast-away. And lots of creepy animal-things. Things go Horribly Wrong.

It was good. I’ve heard enough about it over the years that nothing was too surprising. Wells has a much lighter touch than Lovecraft, and makes room for a little humor. More to my taste.

Working on Dune (hard to get into) and Wells’ The First Men in the Moon now. As a side note: my beloved wife, who read a ton of Sci Fi in her youth, but found school and then motherhood took all her time, picked up Slan off the pile – and read it all the way through. She liked it.

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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