Title: Lovecraft Country
Author: Matt Ruff
Genre: Horror, Science-Fiction, Fantasy
Dates Read: September 20 – October 27, 2020
Edition Read: Kindle eBook
Blurb: The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.
Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, twenty-two year old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned Atticus’s great grandmother—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.
At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.
A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of one black family, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.
I don’t know if I would have picked up this book if it wasn’t for the Nerdist Book Club. If you haven’t checked them out yet, I highly recommend that you do so. Rachel Heine, Hector Navarro and Maude Garrett originally started the book club on Project Alpha, which was a subscription service shared between Nerdist and Geek & Sundry. It had a lot of cool programming, but sadly isn’t around anymore. Luckily, the book club has reformed on Nerdist’s YouTube channel. They select a book each month and have weekly in-depth discussions about the chapters read that week. It’s also live streamed, so you can take part in the chat as well (although I’ve only been able to watch them live once, but they mentioned my comment on the air, so that was cool).
I like that they make me read books that I wouldn’t have read otherwise. It makes me happy. It also looks like they are re-uploading the old Alpha episodes to the YouTube channel, and that makes me happy too!
But onto the book. I absolutely loved it. It was terrifying in multiple ways. You had the Lovecraftian cosmic horror with monsters and cultists and such, but you also had the realities of living as a Black person in 1950s America. There is a scene early on in the book where Atticus, George and Leticia are driving through the wrong town at the wrong time and are “escorted” off the road by the police. It was clear that the officers had planned on executing them and would have done so if not for supernatural interference. Honestly, I don’t know which one was scarier. There are several times the characters know they are being followed but don’t know what is following them. Is it a cultist? Is it a shoggoth? Is it a racist cop? The entire book has the feeling of being just one step ahead of some sort of doom.
Another thing that is interesting about this book is that while it does follow the same families throughout the novel, it is also written as a bunch of interconnected stories, much like Lovecraft’s work was. It’s sort of like a short story collection in that it doesn’t have regular chapters. You could almost read the stories by themselves as standalone stories, but reading them all together makes the overarching saga that much more rich and real. My personal favorites were “Hippolyta Disturbs the Universe,” “Jekyll in Hyde Park,” and “Horace and the Devil Doll.”
If you are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, I think you will enjoy this book, but even if you aren’t or only have a passing familiarity, you will still get a lot out of these stories. I thought it was brilliantly done. My only complaint was that I was waiting for Cthulhu to make an appearance and he never did. Oh well. He’s probably busy with Elder God business. 🙂
GoodReads rating: 5 stars
Categories: Books I've Read