Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft
There are sacraments of evil as well as of good about us, and we live and move to my belief in an unknown world, a place where there are caves and shadows and dwellers in twilight. It is possible that man may sometimes return on the track of evolution, and it is my belief that an awful lore is not yet dead.
—Arthur Machen (quoted as an introduction to “The Horror at Red Hook”)
Everyone must read a little Lovecraft and Blackstone Audio’s recently published edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft is, in my opinion, the perfect way to do that. Like re-animated corpses, Lovecraft’s most popular stories from the 1920s and 1930s pulp magazines are brought back to life by some of the best readers in the business: Paul Michael Garcia, Bronson Pinchot, Stephen R. Thorne, Keith Szarabajka, Adam Werner, Tom Weiner, and John Lescault.
Here are the stories you’ll find in this 21-hour audio edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft:
- Herbert West—Reanimator
- The Lurking Fear
- The Rats in the Walls
- The Whisperer in Darkness
- Cool Air
- In the Vault
- The Call of Cthulhu
- The Colour Out of Space
- The Horror at Red Hook
- The Music of Erich Zann
- The Shadow Out of Time
- The Dunwich Horror
- The Haunter of the Dark
- The Outsider
- The Shunned House
- The Unnamable
- The Thing on the Doorstep
- Under the Pyramids
If you’ve read more than a few Lovecraft stories before, you know what to expect here: first person narrators who are either scholars or are examining the papers of scholars, narrators who’ve gone mad or are examining the papers of someone who’s gone mad, rural settings where the superstitious rustics are inbred and degenerate, furtive swarthy-skinned devil worshippers, squinty slant-eyed Orientals, lurking perils in the cosmos, grave robbers, tentacled gods from other dimensions, shrieking demons, underground crypts, frightening legends about badly-behaved ancestors, rats and other disgusting creatures, amnesia, mind and body exchanges, secret archives, coffins, disembodied brains, corpses reanimated by evil men who’ve studied The Necronomicon. These are common elements in Lovecraft’s stories, as is the ever-present sexism, Eurocentrism, racism and his tendency to run out of imagination at some point and say that what happened next, or what the monster looked like, was “indescribable” or “unspeakable” or “unutterable.”
And then there are the frequent purple patches:
The thing came abruptly and unannounced; a daemon, rat-like scurrying from pits remote and unimaginable, a hellish panting and stifled grunting, and then from that opening beneath the chimney a burst of multitudinous and leprous life—a loathsome night-spawned flood of organic corruption more devastatingly hideous than the blackest conjurations of mortal madness and morbidity. Seething, stewing, surging, bubbling like serpents’ slime it rolled up and out of that yawning hole, spreading like a septic contagion and streaming from the cellar at every point of egress—streaming out to scatter through the accursed midnight forests and strew fear, madness, and death.
Honestly, I’d have a hard time admiring many of these stories (and would be very much tempted to call Lovecraft a hack) if it weren’t that, after his death, Lovecraft has been so influential in speculative fiction. His Cthulhu Mythos is foundational to a proper SFF/H education. I’ve read several books published within the last couple of years that refer in some way to Lovecraft’s mythos. Which is why everyone must read at least some of it.
Because this collection is so wonderfully narrated, it’s the perfect way to experience Lovecraft. Most of the stories are at least loosely connected with the Cthulhu Mythos. The best tales (because they’re either particularly imaginative, unique, exciting, or are historically important) are “The Rats in the Walls,” “The Whisperer in Darkness” (this one is brilliantly narrated), “The Vault,” “The Call of Cthulhu” (read by actor Bronson Pinchot, one of my very favorite narrators), “The Shadow out of Time,” and “The Thing on the Doorstep.”
I’m giving Blackstone Audio’s version of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft a high rating and “must read” status because of its importance to the genre and because this particular audio edition is so excellently done.