Two nights in Arkham
Lovecraft purists often frown at Lovecraft-inspired fiction. The main charge raised by these people is, other writers are either too much like Lovecraft or not at all like him, often at the same time. The second most common accusation is that certain stories are too action-centered and adventure-oriented, filled with guns blazing and chanting cultists. They usually blame Lovecraft’s popularity with the gaming crowd as the main reason for these degenerate pastiches, in which Indiana Jones or Doc Savage seem to exert an influence stronger than Nyarlathotep’s.
But I do like a bit of Lovecraft-flavored pulp adventure – and I do not mind action, gun-play and tongue-in-cheek name dropping.
I guess I am not a true Epicure in the terrible. So sue me.
And action, two guns blazing and more canonical Cthulhu Mythos names dropped casually than you can shake a wrench at is just what I found in Arkham Horror: Hour of the Huntress, a fun novella by Dave Gross that ties in with the Arkham Horror tabletop game.
Socialite and adventuress Jenny Barnes leaves behind the nightclubs and literary circles in Paris and comes to Arkham looking for her estranged sister Izzie, whose letters hinted at something foul before they stopped abruptly. What follows is a fine pulpy caper, with a handful of characters that are as cliche as expected, and that’s not a real problem. The story is fast and entertaining, and hopefully is the first in a series – the Arkham Horror novels and novellas usually come in three, and it would be fun to meet Jenny again.
True, the novel does not challenge our concept of supernatural horror, it does not redefine our perception of the universe and our position in it, and most certainly does not emulate the language of H.P. Lovecraft.
But what the heck, it’s good entertainment, it can be read in two evenings, and fulfills the primary function of good escapist literature: it takes our mind off the current problems. Excellent.
As a side note, it was fun finding my own hometown of Turin mentioned in the book, and the adjacent Susa Valley, of course peopled with ignorant superstitious bumpkins, all too ready to ride an archaeological dig with torches and pitchforks. A flash of stone-cold realism in a fantasy story.