In the mood for some Eldritch horror? Feel like steeping yourself in Lovecraft’s frightening nihilistic dream worlds? Want to be read to by some of the world’s best story readers? Then give Blackstone Audio’s version of Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft a try. It collects Lovecraft’s entire Dream Cycle in 20 hours of high-quality audio narrated by some of my favorite readers including Robertson Dean, Simon Vance, Sean Runnette, Elijah Alexander, Stefan Rudnicki, Bronson Pinchot, Simon Prebble, Tom Weiner, Malcolm Hillgartner, and Patrick Cullen.
Here are the stories. (I’ve linked them to the excellent Lovecraft Archive where you can read them for free since they’re in the public domain, but please consider this audio version, because it’s really excellent):
- The Descendant
- The Thing in the Moonlight
- Beyond the Wall of Sleep
- The Doom that Came to Sarnath
- The Statement of Randolph Carter
- The Cats of Ulthar
- From Beyond
- The Nameless City
- The Other Gods
- Ex Oblivione
- The Quest of Iranon
- The Hound
- What the Moon Brings
- Pickman’s Model
- The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
- The Silver Key
- The Strange High House in the Mist
- The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
- The Dreams in the Witch-House
- Through the Gates of the Silver Key
The stories of the Dream Cycle tell of men (Lovecraft writes very few women) who are seeking, discovering, traversing, stuck in, or trying to escape the Dreamlands, a parallel universe that is entered through dreams. The Dreamlands have a consistent geography with land masses and towns that have their own personalities and politics. For example, in “The Cats of Ulthar” (one of my favorite stories) we learn why it’s illegal to kill cats in Ulthar. The Dreamlands also have a moon and an underworld which are inhabited by frightening non-human races.
If you’re already a fan of Lovecraft, many of these stories will be familiar to you and those that aren’t will seem so. Lovecraft’s usual themes and imagery are all here. (Honestly, they get a little repetitive). The Eldritch mythos and its famous textbook, The Necronomicon, is a constant backdrop, making the tortured characters seem puny and ineffective to change their circumstances in the face of an ancient elder race that cares nothing for mankind. This nihilistic, hopeless feeling is indeed terrifying. Many of Lovecraft’s characters have descended into madness as they face, or refuse to face, a cosmic reality that only a few people have encountered.
A particular theme of these stories is the nature of dreams and reality. They may make you wonder, along with the author and his characters, why we dream at all. Lovecraft suggests that perhaps “real” life is only a dream. If Lovecraft were alive today, I think he’d be disillusioned with modern science’s views about dreams. They’re not nearly as wondrous as Lovecraft’s ideas.