Monday, September 6, 2010

Shadow Over Innsmouth by H. P. Lovecraft

I still can't believe that it took me this long to read Lovecraft. I've seen many movies, and read many books, that utilize the Lovecraftian method of revealing the monster or evil. For the uninitiated, he would hint at the grotesqueness, or show small pieces, and let the reader's imagination do the rest.

Lovecraft's writing style took a little time to get use to. His cadence is that of the early 1900s, which is when it was written. This book is also set up as a memoir of the narrator, Robert Olmstead. He is writing this memoir, long after the initial experience so it has the natural randomness of someone remembering. Once I got use to those two things, the story grabbed me.

Mr. Olmstead is a young college man on summer break, he is taking the opportunity to explore his genealogy and his interest in architecture and history. He reaches the town of Newburyport, and hears intriguing tales about the formerly prosperous town of Innsmouth. He is warned against going, but his curiosity gets the better of him.

The bus to Innsmouth and its driver, give him pause, but he persists in going to Innsmouth. The driver shows the tell-tale deformities that citizens of this seaport town are known for. The closer they get to Innsmouth the more dilapidated the buildings become, the less signs of life there are, and the stronger the smell of old fish. Once in the town, his sense of unease grows. He interviews a boy working in the grocery store, who cautions him to avoid being nosy, and get out of town quickly. Again his curiosity overwhelms his reason and instincts to leave. Mr. Olmstead goes exploring, and searching for the town drunk to question about the local history. His plans to leave before dark are thwarted by the bus breaking down (though I get the feeling that it wasn't really broken).

Lovecraft gradually increases the oddness of the situation and people, building suspense and curiosity for the narrator and the reader alike. The story is just over 100 pages long, but it contains an intensity that surprised me for such a short work. He even provides a twist ending, it was at least surprising to me. I look forward to reading more Lovecraft.

But first, some YA steampunk.