Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review of At the Mountains of Madness

Book #10. At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft. Unabridged audio.

Geologist William Dyer of Miskaotnic University led a group of academics on an expedition to Antarctica. The story is both his account of the team’s experiences, as well as his plea to stop another scientific expedition to the same area.

Dyer’s account includes finding ancient ruins bearing terrible secrets, in mountains taller than the Himalayas. During a time when the party is divided, the majority of the men and dogs left at the camp are slaughtered, while one has disappeared. Bodies are found nearby, as is evidence of dissection experiments.

Eventually, the group discovers the walls of an abandoned stone city, with what seems to be alien architecture. Interpreting hieroglyphs in comparison to myths from the Necronomicon, the builders of this ancient city are called “The Elder Things.” Their discoveries continue to point toward alien involvement in Earth’s development. The surviving members of the crew manage to escape, but one makes the tragic mistake of looking back to the mountains.

Lovecraft does a nice job of slowly building the tension. This is truly a story of “mounting terror,” as the group slowly discovers secrets that are increasingly disconcerting. The sense of dread escalates at regular intervals throughout the story.

It is hard to overstate the impact that this novel has had on succeeding generations of fiction. The Necronomicon and Elder Gods have become tropes of horror and RPG scenarios. And the argument can be made that the “Ancient Astronaut” theory – which some people believe to be true – began in this short novel.

The common style of storytelling has changed very much since the 1930s. Compared to modern works, this seems to move slowly. But in the right mindset, the languid pace actually adds to the sense of suspense.

Source: The Classic TalesPodcast. B.J. Harrison does an excellent job narrating the story.

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