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One had to be careful of one’s imagination in the lee of those overshadowing mountains of madness.

I don’t know if this counts as a literary classic, but it is certainly an example of a classic horror novel.

A team from a small New England university, Miskatonic University, head off to the Antarctic in search of fossils. They are totally enthralled by the magnificent landscape that is laid out before them. Lake, one of the scientists, takes a part of the team on a sub-expedition and discovers some very well preserved specimens of an unclassifiable species never seen before. He sends messages regularly keeping the rest of the team updated.

The messages suddenly stop. Concerned, geologist William Dyer and his student, Danforth,  go looking for the sub-expedition campsite.When they arrive they are  confronted with corpses of humans and dogs alike. A man and some of the specimens that were discovered are also missing. And always in the background are the giant mountains reminiscent of dark legends of old…

At the Mountains of Madness and Other NovelsHow was that for being dramatic. This is the first book I have ever read by Lovecraft, and even as I’m writing this I can still feel the that eerie aura I got while reading the story. I think the scariest part about this story is that for a long time you have no idea who or what the killers are, and as the story progresses the tension just keeps building. The only consolation I had is that  Dyer is recounting the story…so obviously he lives.

As you may have already figured out, this is a first person narrative, so basically you only know what Dyer knows, or rather what he is willing to say. Dyer only reveals what he does to protect mankind:

It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.

So all he says is to prevent further expeditions into the inner Antarctic. This reminds of the whole Frankenstein motif; that there are some things that should not known. the difference being that these monsters were not made by man.

There were points when questioned Dyer’s reliability as a narrator. I thought that for a scientist he was too ready to accept that there was connection between myths that he had read and the phenomena which he was witnessing or at least  expected to witness. In terms of the scare factor, the limited perspective is definitely a plus; the whole not knowing while the Dyer and Danforth are just sort of dithering about in ancient ruin of an inhuman civilization.

If there is anything I really dig about this novel it would be Lovecraft’s use of language to describe the landscape:

Through the desolate summits swept ranging, intermittent gusts of the terrible antarctic wind; whose cadences sometimes held vague suggestions of a wild and half-sentient musical piping…

While I loved the language in general, there were times when I found it a bit tedious and had re-read certain parts over again. To conclude, I enjoyed reading this book and I recommend it to all you Horror and Speculative Fiction fans.

K


Source: Free from Amazon

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