As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media—books, comics, movies, and television—to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way to Halloween.
Yep, I’m reviewing another piece of Lovecraft-inspired fiction. This one holds a special place in my heart, though. Not only is Brett J. Talley’s That Which Should Not Be a great book, but it was also the first truly good piece of modern Lovecraftian fiction I read.
Carter Weston is a student at Miskatonic University, which of course means he’s peripherally aware of some weird stuff going on in both the world and his own backyard.
He’s also that type of person who doesn’t say no when a professor sends him on a quest to find the Necronomincon Incendium Maleficarum. Unfortunately, Weston’s already perilous quest will have consequences far worse than even he could imagine.
What really made this book work for me was how Talley split up the overarching narrative by cleverly inserted short stories. Weston goes to a bar, meets some old townies, and listens to each of their harrowing tales (which of course end up relating to his mission).
Weston ends up hearing and reading another couple stories, which in the hands of a lesser author would have me rolling my eyes and begging for the narrative to quit stalling. Talley, on the other, weaves one hell of a good yarn. Each one of his vignettes stands incredibly well on their own while also providing vital elements to the main plot. They also give the reader a literary buffet of enjoyable horror. Whether it’s a monster ripping apart its victims, the discovery (and breathless escape from) an ancient cult, or a ghost ship on a celestial sea, Talley manages to hit every note you could ask for.
What Doesn’t Work
Unfortunately, the connected stories are so good that they end up outshining the main narrative.
Don’t get me wrong—Weston’s story is still very good, especially when he ends up taking a trip to R’lyeh. But much of the dread Talley was building toward falls flat in comparison to what came before, undercutting an otherwise intriguing/unconventional finale.
That being said, Talley’s smart writing and knack for chilling imagery still makes That Which Should Not Be required reading for any self-respecting H.P. Lovecraft fan. It’s a rare example of modern mythos literature that hits all the elements of good Lovecraftian fiction without losing the proper tone.