How does the weekend end so fast? I feel like it was just Friday.
I’m sure my regular readers have noticed a lack of book reviews lately – honestly, I’ve been just slogging through this Lumley collection and…
I didn’t finish it.
It is so, so rare that I don’t finish a book. There can be several reasons for this but usually, almost 99% of the time, it is because I really don’t like the book, when reading it has become a chore and I have to force myself to do it.
Reality is, reading to me is only ever for pleasure. I know I write book reviews, but that’s a result of the fact that I love to read, not because I want blog material.
I’m sure you can see where this review is going to go with that intro. The heart-breaking thing is that I quit on page 567 of 655. That’s only 100 pages to get through and maybe if this was a different situation – as in, I wasn’t dealing with the stress of the stay-at-home order and worrying about the future of myself and my loved ones – then maybe that hundred pages wouldn’t have been that bad. But forcing myself to try and finish this collection was making me so miserable that I was avoiding reading anything at all. When that happens, I know it’s time to give up the ghost.
Now is one hundred percent not the time to force yourself to do anything that is unnecessary. Don’t do it. Take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself. Do what helps defuse the stress and anxiety when you can. And that’s exactly what I did by putting this book to the side even though I felt like I should finish it because Brian Lumley is an author I like.
And on that note…
Brian Lumley has written 130 short stories and novellas, as well as 33 novels – which is a pretty hefty count. Born in 1937, Lumley grew up reading a lot of macabre and weird fiction. He joined the British Army’s Royal Military Police and wrote stories in his spare time before retiring with the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1 in 1980 and becoming a professional writer.
It was in the 1970s that he added to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos cycle of stories – I feel like it’s important to note here that many people compared his writing style then to resemble Lovecraft’s very heavily.
His later works included the Necroscope series of novels, which features a writing style that was more his own. Which is important to my review, I think, because I became a fan of Lumley after reading a lot of his Necroscope series. His writing style was a lot easier to read, more enjoyable to read, plus I think you could tell that his writing had become so much better…. But let’s get back to the bio part.
From 1996 to 1997, Lumley served as president of the Horror Writers Association. In 2010, Lumley was awarded Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers Association and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010.
Note: there are spoilers in this review
Brian Lumley’s Mythos Omnibus (Volume 1) has three novellas: The Burrowers Beneath (published first in 1988), The Transition of Titus Crow (published first in 1991), and The Clock of Dreams (published first in 1978).
THE BURROWERS BENEATH: In which Crow is alerted to a menace in the earth that gnaws at the very foundations of Man’s domination of his home planet – and seeks to usurp him! Two men share a terrible secret and make their lonely stand against subterranean terror.
THE TRANSITIONS OF TITUS CROW: Fleeing from the Burrowers, Crow discovers the secrets of time and space and learns the lore of the Great Old Ones. But Lord Cthulhu seeks not only the domination of Earth but the destruction of the Elder Gods and the space-time continuum itself! De Marigny answers Crow’s call from the depths of space to join him in the battle for universal sanity against all the forces of evil.
THE CLOCK OF DREAMS: From fathomless ocean depths, Cthulhu’s dreams disturb the minds of men to reshape the waking world. Diverted from his search for the lost Elysia, de Marigny pilots his space-time machine into subconscious worlds of dream and nightmare in a bid to save the lives and very souls of Titus Crow and Tiania of Elysia. – snippets from the Amazon page
This collection was released in 1997 and classified as horror (but I would heavily disagree with that).
There is also a Volume 2 with the novellas: Spawn of the Winds, In the Moons of Borea, and Elysia! (which I will not be buying).
As mentioned, I did not finish this collection, but I think my review still holds some solid merit just for the fact that reading this collection became a chore.
To address a huge issue I had: this was classified as horror and the first novella, The Burrowers Beneath, definitely fit that. It had a definite Lovecraft feel and I got really into the story.
Then the second and, ultimately, the third novella completely lost that feel. It became more like fantasy or sci-fi. The Burrowers Beneath had the two protagonists, Titus Crow (who felt very much like a Sherlockian character) and Henri-Laurent de Marigny (his faithful Watson who records a lot of the adventures in his journals), and they deal directly with a Cthulhian God who plays the main villian: Shudde-M’ell. They work with a secret society and do a lot of investigation/research like Lovecraft’s characters are prone to do. It was a fun story and I went into The Transition of Titus Crow hoping for the same and was disappointed.
The Transition of Titus Crow deals with Crow disappearing in a magical clock, which acts much like a Tardis. At this point, the story veers a hard left out of horror-territory and into sci-fi/fantasy. He travels through time and space, trying to find his way back to Earth and his own time. Then some telepathic girl starts communicating with him. Keep in mind that Crow is 50 and this girl is 21. At one point Crow manages to crash into a planet and then robots rebuild his body thirty years younger but, mentally, he’s still 50.
Lumley also goes out of his way to always address this only regular female character as a “girl-goddess” who embodies “the essence of woman”. At one point, she is talking back to Crow and he threatens to take her over his knee and spank her.
The second novella ends with Crow telling his pal to jump in the clock and join him and his girl-goddess on the paradise planet so they can live happily ever after. The third novella, The Clock of Dreams, picks up with de Marigny deciding to use the clock then getting contacted by an Elder God who directs him to go to the Dreamlands to save Crow and his girlfriend. I got as far as de Marigny managing to get them out of captivity, then helpless girl-goddess gets kidnapped by a night-gaunt, and I had to quit.
As mentioned, my number one issue is that the series turned into a sci-fi/fantasy series.
Lumley ticks a lot of boxes for cosmic horror – he has Cthulhu, Shudde-M’ell, G’harne, Hounds of Tindalos, Elder Gods, Dreamlands, Randolph Carter, Arkham, Ithaqua, and all that (sometimes it felt like he was just throwing a lot of Lovecraftian horrors on the wall to see which one was sticky enough to stay there). But the way he writes strips them all of their horror, their monstrosity. Cthulhu seems ineffective, Shudde-M’ell was sinister at most, and Ithaqua seems like a basic monster. Nothing to really shiver over. (Bah dum TSH)
My second issue is that his writing was more like a long list rather than action-packed, tension building events that lead to a powerful conclusion. The second novella is especially bad for this, mainly because it is told only through journal entries and recordings so it’s just Crow telling the reader what happened to him on his journeys. There was no sense of urgency or suspense.
Overall there was a lot of telling rather than showing. Lumley’s writing also seemed rather sterile sometimes, if that’s the right word, where there seemed to be no emotion behind the narration.
Third issue: the adventures outlined in the second and third novellas weren’t that interesting to me. The Burrowers Beneath was definitely a fun read, though I can’t say it blew me away.
In The Transition of Titus Crow, it’s mentioned that there was a “Fury” event where Cthulhu lashes out against the secret society operating in Arkham, managing to destroy the Miskatonic University, Innsmouth, and murdering a bunch of people. Guess how much page time that event got? Very, very little. Yet it was honestly the event I wanted to hear more about. Who doesn’t want to hear more about a global reckoning caused by a rageful cosmic god?
I really wanted to like these series, for obvious reasons, but I just couldn’t. The first novella, The Burrowers Beneath, was decent enough. But The Transition of Titus Crow and The Clock of Dreams was just a let down and an absolute chore to read.
I would, though, recommend you check out Lumley’s Necroscope series. His writing is definitely better, there’s some cosmic horror aspects to it, and he puts a really good spin on the vampire myth.
x P.L. McMillan