Friday, February 1, 2008

The Call Of Cthulhu: Truly Gripping, yet too Short

Well folks, I had FINALLY finished reading the highly rated Call of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft- a task I had begun way back in my college years- in my very first year. Its taken about three years to complete it. a thinker from a very young age- he wrote his short story "The Alchemist" when he was only 17 yrs old. Looking at his list of works- I was stunned, finding myself lost in a veritable ocean of infinite themes and varied genres.

Many of the modern writers have been inspired by him- Stephen King is one of the most famous examples, while his works reflect certain characterisitics found in Edgar Allan Poe- the legendary wordsmith of the mystery and horror.

I was surprised that I never heard of his name till now (and I am a voracious reader), and come to think of it I only ever heard of Cthulhu from the PC game of the same name. Anyway, after that I wanted to immerse myself in the world of Cthulhu, or atleast have a basic understanding of the plot- in order to play the game, of course (I hadn't suddenly been bitten by a Cthulhu bug, trust me), and the first book I took up was "The Call of Cthulhu"- the book, going by its name, where it all started.
But, it seems this whole Cthulhu business has no specific root. Rather than concern himself with trivial matters such as chronological ordering of events, Lovecraft leaves it to the readers to arrive at a sequence for the events- an enormous task considering the vast ocean of bits-and-pieces clues in his stories- stories that already leave us half-demented by their ubiquitous gloom and constant feeling of tension and suspense.

So this wasn't the start of all Cthulhu, but you are pretty much at home in the initial stages of the novel. Although a bit slow and transgressive at places, it proceeds like your average crime thriller, the story unfolding in the eyes of a victim's kin, who is reviewing the possessions that he has inherited.

The build-up to finale, and the suspense maintained for an explosive climax is all fine, even laudatory, considering there are few characters and things for the reader to think about. But, the story fizzles out at the critical denoument- the confrontation with Cthulhu itself. Maybe a hundred years back (when it was written), it would have been a chilling tale of the supernatural. But in this space age, it is no more than an amateurish attempt at imitating Allan Poe's style of suspense and horror. Whatever they may say, Edgar Allan Poe was far better than this chap, and shall be immortal.

You can read the book for free at Wikisource:

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