The Best of H.P. Lovecraft:

Bloodcurdling Tales of the Horror and the Macabre

by H.P. Lovecraft

Reviewed by Ruby


This is a compilation of sixteen short stories written by one of America's earliest horror writers. I'm going to break it down story by story.

The Rats in the Walls: After his only child dies during the war, the narrator Delapore, decides to move back to his families ancestral home in England, which has been uninhabited for generations, after one of the sons had killed off the entire family and fled to Virginia. Right after he moves in, he starts hearing rats in the walls and, weirder yet, no one else but his cats can hear them. Following them, they lead him down into the depth of the estate where he learns the terrible secret of his family. This was possibly the scariest of all the tales in this book. When I first read it I wasn't scared, but the images in the final few pages really stuck with me and I swear I could hear rats when I was at work for the next few days . But then again we were having a mouse problem at the time. Still, very creepy. Grade A

The Picture in the House: This is a very short story about a man who wanders into the wrong house to get out of the rain. Grade B

The Outsider: A sole inhabitant of a dark castle makes an attempt to be free and find other people. Shockingly the castle is underground and he must climb to get out. Only what he finds outside sends him running back to his dark home. This story makes less sense then the rest. How did the narrator get in the underground castle? How can he survive down there? The payoff wasn't worth the read. Grade D

Pickman's Model: A nervous narrator tells his friend of the terrifying night he had while trying to understand Pickman's artwork. The artwork is of monsters and creatures not of this world. He goes from revering the artist to being absolute terrified of him in one night. If you think about it, the ending is not a shock at all. Grade C

In the Vault: This is a short creepy story about George Birch, the town undertaker. He is drunk and gets himself trapped in the vault with coffins he was going to bury that day. Only he kind of pissed off one of the dead guys and the dead guy decided to get revenge. There's really nothing else to say. Grade B

The Silver Key: Randolph Carter lost the silver key; the key to the gate of dreams. After the age of thirty he sought reason instead of imagination and later in life he regretted it and went searching for the key again. This one was actually a nice story as opposed to the rest of the book. It wasn't that interesting, but it was thoughtful and sweet. Grade C

The Music of Erich Zann: The narrator of this story has heard the haunting music of one of the other tenants in the building, Erich Zann. The ending is weird and I'm not sure if it makes much sense, but it's an interesting story. Grade B

The Call Of Cthulhu: The narrator inherits his granduncle's estate and there he finds information the dead man collected about the Cthulhu Cult. There are also related newspaper articles and reports of people's nightmares and as the narrator starts to piece them together a horrible image is revealed.  This is one of the stories that Lovecraft is known for, and it doesn't disappoint. Grade A

The Dunwich Horror: There's a creepy family in Dunwich called the Whateley's. The father is known for doing black magic and the grandson might not even be human.  This tale is not bad, it takes a while to get going, however the end is pretty good. Grade B

Whisperer in the Darkness: The narrator has been in contact with Mr. Henry W. Akeley who claims there are aliens in the woods around his house. Through many letters we learn that the aliens are tying to kill him because he knows about them. Akeley has reached out to the narrator for help in stopping these creatures. Unfortunately for him the narrator is a moron. I actually get mad at this story because the narrator is so incredible stupid.  He is supposed to be a professor but can't put pieces of a simple puzzle together. The tale had been going so well until that part too. Grade D

The Colour out of Space: Something from outer crashes on a farm and slowly all the inhabitants of that farm start either disappearing or going crazy. This was a good story, but somewhat forgettable. Grade B

The Haunter in the Dark:  Blake investigates an old abandoned church and awakens what's inside. Good, not great. Grade B

The Thing on the Doorstep: The narrator's best friend falls in love and gets married to a sinister woman. A woman who has been rumored to be able to able to change bodies with other people. The idea behind this one is creepy, but I think it gets a bit confusing near the end. Grade B

The Shadow over Innsmouth: A man takes a tour of the insular town of Innsmouth and discovers that all the rumors about the town are true. This story was a bit too long for the story, but it was okay. Grade C

The Dreams in the Witch-House: A young man moves into the room where a woman used to live. This woman was condemned as a witch, but escaped somehow before she could be executed. The man starts experiencing dreams and nightmares as he tries to understand what the witch was doing and apply it to his mathematical theories. This one was very interesting and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Grade A

The Shadow out of Time: A man has amnesia for five years. After he wakes up he realize that he was living his day to day life during those five years, but as a completely different person and, according to his family, something else not human.  He starts doing research into long term amnesia around the same time he starts getting weird dreams of another world. It all culminates on horrible night in Australia twenty-two years after he returned to consciousness.  Love this story. A bit long and rambling and it takes awhile to get to the point, but it is very good. Grade A

Overall it is a good read, if you are not scared or creeped out easily.  There is a recurring pattern with his stories that gets predictable and annoying.  They always start off (usually) in the present and they go back to when the story began by setting a very macabre scene. Then they build for the rest of the story until the last paragraph, or last line even, and that is when the 'big shock ending' occurs. Most of time, it's not shocking, or even scary. Most of the time he takes too long to come to a point and by that time you've figures out what the ending is going to be. None the less, still a enjoyable book filled with endless bone-chilling possibilities.  

Grade: B