The Hound by HP Lovecraft

​This ghastly tale of two tomb raiders marks the very first appearance of Lovecraft’s infamous forbidden book, Necronomicon.

Two seemingly low life robbers, St. John and the narrator, who shares this vile interest in defiling centuried graves for logical pelfs, goes to Netherlands (literally!) to excavate/rob an ancient ghoul. Though their nocturnal expedition is repeatedly disturbed by bayings of a hound in background, they unearth an old jaded amulet(semi canine faced) with sinister inscriptions that can be traced to those of old Arab daemonologist, Abdul Alhazred. Pulling it from the eerily fresh and torn carcass of ghoul, they flee home with the souvenir. With it came strange sounds and happenings.

‘the expression on its features was repellent in the extreme, savouring at once of death, bestiality and malevolence’

Narrative took a turn from there, atleast for me. The classic horror storyline that my mind had framed from this halfway reading wasn’t able to reduce the engaging experience. Initial reluctant first person account suggestedthe grave excavations not being a profession of choice, but lack of options. I was wrong to judge that. As story progressed the complex and perverse nature of narrator and St. John’s relationship brought a new outlook to the happenings. For once, the narrator felt somewhat reliable to me. Though their deeper obsession towards occult and their own reculse cult of necrophilia suggested otherwise, I was inclined to read them with Lovecraft’s life and company(thanks to Paul La Farge’s Night Ocean); and to focus more on ‘material constants’ of the story than perceptions of narrator. Also it would be safe to admit that much of my thoughts changed after finishing the story.

apologies for this unholy comparison

The ending, now that I think back, shared a strong resemblance with my first lovecraftian tale ‘The Dagon‘ and I couldn’t help but read it along with his opening line from The Call of Cthulhu, “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents“. The more I thought about the hound, the more it started to appear like the bed rock for modern cursed artifact adventures(ignoring the crude morale) from Indiana Jones to Nathan Drake, mostly due to my limited reading. After expedition experience and narrator’s paranoia held strong resemblances with that of Truant and even Zampano from House of Leaves, with the foreign languages and sense of haunting. My mind went a step further and somehow made a vampirish connection with Lovecraft‘s ‘The Alchemist‘, thanks to the baroque descriptions, and that grisly second grave encounter. 

Nevertheless, terror inscribed in the writing made the story all the more atmospheric if not a bit Poe-esque. Or like Howard might say, ‘it’s a charnel premise of abhorrence and cosmicism‘ . 

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Nameless by Grant Morrison

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In our solar system, between Mars and Jupiter, there is an asteroid belt, which some people see as an anomaly in place of a should-have-been 5th planet. This hypothetical planet is named as Phaeton by scientists, and the pseudosciences behind it are collectively referred to as ‘disruption theory’. This comic bends that theory and use it in its multi layered narrative, with one completely unfitting element – occultism.

Nameless is a name. Its the name of our protagonist who identifies himself as an expert on the occult(like Constantine). Story opens with a seance, of cosmic proportions, where Nameless is contracted to obtain an archaic key off someone’s dream, by inducing dreams inside dreams. Pretty much like Cobbs from Inception, but with a Lovecraftian touch and Legion(X- Men) psychology.

Meanwhile a huge asteroid- Xibalba (Mayan underworld reference) with a weird Enochian symbol on its surface, is on a collision course with Earth, with a margin of 33 days. A group of scientists are stationed at the Dark side of the moon, to act as Planet’s Michael Bay-ish ‘Armageddon’ crew. Things get weird and trippy when Nameless is recruited to decipher the asteroid symbol and solve the first murder on moon, which turns out to be more or less an Event Horizon scenario. Wrapping my head around this plot is still an ongoing process. It is a non linear acid trip with intertwined ‘unreliable narratives’, that borrows reality realms off Kaballic Tree of Life for plot; and from comic’s own panels, Nameless is Exorcist meeting Apollo 13 in Dantes Inferno.

There are fish people, door to an anti universe and exposure to Elder ones. Also you get to see serious people in space suits with Gravity Falls symbols painted all over, doing Randezvous with Rama and Mountain of Madness. By later issues, it reminded me of Warren Ellis Injection in quality and mind blowing wtf contents.

I must remind you of comic’s mature nature, with gruesomenese in levels with Martyrs movie, if it was a comic. Adding to the horrors is Morrison’s spinning writing – obscure and lunatic(and awesome), like its sci-fi premise. Nameless is further blessed by Burham’s gorgeous artwork- properly inked and meticulously detailed, like a Jodorowsky panel. Also, the reading experience may not be for every body(definitely, not for me if ever cinematic-ally adapted), especially with its vividly rendered physical violence, and existential (and arguably heretic) philosophy.

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Though intellectually demanding and deep, this limited series was a solid read; and weird fun, like all 6 issues in single sitting fun. To me, Nameless in its entirety felt like listening to Tool, while being relatively high.

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6’48” back in time

Hi, I am Jonathan and I am from the future. Nothing T-1000 about it, more like from a recent future. 6 minutes and 48 seconds from now to be exact.

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So I visited this creepy cave with my childhood friend Stephen. It has always been there, ignored, kind of forgotten even. We were catching up with our old days and thought of having a joint inside, seemed like a good idea then. The place was next to that junction we used to meet for church, down by the bridge, Estate was owned by a guy from parish, I believe. It’s all green and mushy, cattle roaming in some distance and there it was, hidden in thickets. We remembered it clean, with a small entrance leading to a wide hall kinda area. Followed by another inside entrance, big enough for a man to slide through. We once ventured through it a bit when we were kids. Left in few meter length over fear of snakes.

Anyway, it was our personal batcave whenever we went by. Nothing much had changed, all stayed the same. It was actually surprising since some archeological excavation was done in past, sometime after we left the village for studies. It was called off over missing equipment and dogs. Yeah dogs disappeared they say. Anyway, ancient history now. We entered with our mobile flashlights. Put water bottle over the flash, and made our light. It was his idea, damn good one too. I rolled. We got high, stuff was good. And smoke stayed in the cave, giving an exhale inhale effect.

Rosetta Stoned was playing, used to be our getting high song from School. I don’t remember whose idea was it to explore the cave, maybe mine. Well there was no hold on time, Laughs and talks. We laughed a lot over the most puny topics imaginable. Talks on life, universe and everything didn’t exactly bore us. He even fell off his posture at one point. I couldn’t help but just laugh at his fall.

“I am definitely high”, he said aloud.

“Yes, you are moron”, I was pretty loud as well.

He was silent for a while. I was busy enjoying the music.

“What is the time, man?”, he asked. Sounded nervous I must say.

“04:42, mate. High time you bought a watch”, I mocked him. Stephen hated wrist watches for some reason.

“Right”

Silence again.

“The cave extends till nearby Hill Palace; they say” he said.

“Who?”

“The archeological people man, Hell, we are the archeologists now. You know, Jonathan. Our little pot cave is a portal, made by Aliens in ancient times”

I laughed out loud, “Piss off, you are high. Plus, too much TV, graceful imagination though.”

“See for yourself, are you man enough to slide though it?”, his voice was trembling.

“Not so sure mate, but high enough now for sure. I am going in, Project IGI.” I stood up in energy.

I would have done anything, believe me that place had a strange calling, mostly coz of the weed. I need light, I said. He gave his mobile, flashlight on. He looked so very familiar, very much like me I felt. I even said it at some point. He replied “Of course I am”, with a trembling voice. I moved in through, had our kerchiefs tied to each other, in case I fall off or some. I checked the time, 04:48 it said. “Put your stop watch on”, I cried. Few more steps, I lost hold of our little hanky contraption. Well, now I am in a hall full of smoke. There is a light, and something next to it, more like someone.

“I am definitely high”, I said aloud.

“Yes, you are moron”, someone responded in a very familiar sound.

Holy Tardis, It was me. It was me. I am in that very cave entrance hall where I started. I could see Stephen, high and out, next to his water bottle mobile flashlight assembly. And there I was talking to myself. Suddenly, I am not high anymore. Did I just travel back in time? I unlocked my phone to see the time, its nearing 04:50.

“What is the time, man?”, I managed to ask

“04:42, mate. High time you bought a watch”

“Right”

I checked Stephen’s mobile. He is right. It is 04:42. I was burning my brain, panicking, losing my sense. But my mobile is running at the time I expect it to be. But something is definitely off. I got a living breathing me in front of me, sending De Javu though my veins. How do I get back, there are two me now. I have to get rid of him, whoever that is. I thought on my head, plotted. I think you know what happened next, I tricked myself to enter the cave creek. Me being high helped a lot, the past me. He caught me at one point, saying I look very familiar. He even asked me to keep the stopwatch on. I didn’t know what to do, yet all went like it was planned way before. I shouldn’t have, Even then If I hadn’t, this wouldn’t have happened.

I ran to Stephen when I lost hold of my past self’s kerchief, Took Stephen’s mobile and bottle. Pulled him off the cave. He was quite high. With zero idea on what to be done, I took him home, made it to my room with huge difficulty. Mom was watching TV with sister, none cared to look thanks to some stupid series running. Still, trying to get my head around the things that happened. So, I am from future now, 6 minutes and 48 seconds to be exact. What might have happened to me, my head felt like exploding. I put water over Stephen, woke him up and said it all in a single breath. He laughed, “Dude, we were high. We are high. Relax”.

It wouldn’t suffice, but it was the only explanation I could make sense of. We both slept I believe, woke up to my ringtone. Stephen picked it up. I was up too. His face was white, he showed me the caller. Some unknown number. “It’s you.” He said. I looked again at the caller id, that was my no. I took the phone and cut it. Stephen was by the window, he looked at me like he has seen a ghost. I looked through the window, there was someone at a distance, outside the main road. With a very familiar face, a face I see everyday, my very own face.

My mom was outside, waved hand at me and Stephen, “Come down, have something kids” she called out. We nodded at her, by the time we looked back he wasn’t there. Me wasn’t there, me from the past.

I tried to call my mobile from Stephens, only mine rang. We both were scared. We ran over the various possibility, read everything time travel available online. If whatever I believe happened, It should create a paradox or an infinite loop of me from future. An army of me against me. We left it as after hallucination, paranoid though. Hallucination wont explain the phone call, unless It was a practical joke by someone. It’s been a week now, we were too scared to go back to the cave. I dreamed of my copies from past killing me and replacing me every night. I am scared to look in the mirror. I thought over all weird explanations, time travel, time remnants, parallel worlds. Even tried to watch Steins Gate again, to grab a thing or two.

I went to see off Stephen today morning, his vacation was over. He laughed over the whole episode before boarding. He was all too calm of it. I joined as well, coz it was something I badly wanted to believe. Maybe it was all part of his grand prank plan. I acted calm, didn’t want to get ridiculed later. He might as well call me once away and explain it. It was late night by the time I got back, could see my room lit from over the road. I was smoking, reminded myself to get rid of the joint as I reach the gate. Was about to enter the gate, it was then I noticed whole family at dining room, pretty clear through the open window. There was someone else as well. There was me, My whole family is having dinner with me. Am I high again? Maybe, still this is unacceptable. I can’t go in, I stepped back. There was laughter over the table.

He turned towards the window, looked at me over the table with a crooked smile, my very own smile.

 

The Witch of Napoli- Renaissance Italy, feels and paranormal activity

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An absolute delight, a captivating historical fiction set in fin-de-siècle Italy, I must admit being pleasantly surprised by the maturity in writing, pace and character chemistry. Nothing was too long, nothing felt too edgy, everything was so vivid yet somehow succinct. And these words are from someone who is mostly in the antagonistic side when it comes to spirits, occults and other ghostly thingys.

I received a promo audiobook copy in exchange for a honest review and it pretty much became a part of my daily routine, thanks to the wonderful narrator and his Italian accented accords. Quite sure my mind would have fallen short in capturing the essence and intensity from transduced retinal signals. And it hit me right in the feels by end, left me wanting for more. Story follows around the autobiographical account of an established Italian newspaper editor about his early life struggle and rise to success, all which were dependent on his acquaintance with a spirit medium, a middle aged lady from Naples. Novel starts in 18th century Italy, where according to the narrator ‘devil’ was pretty much a real thing and witches were burned. Alessandra Poverelli (if I am spelling correctly), our protagonist claim to have the ability to communicate with spirits, specifically with that of an old monk (with a rather funny name- Seven Aureola, more or less, according to my malleus, incus and stapes) , and accountable telekinesis followed these medium works, like movements of inanimate objects and stuff. So narrator, then a young late teenage boy, gets to capture a table levitation act, the photograph of which gets him and Alexandra great fame. Then onwards it’s a journey involving neo scientists and church skeptics eager to expose fraudulent mediums, realists asking scientific explanation, people eager to believe, science vs spiritualism fights and 19th century road trips.

I totally adored the way author developed the personality of title character, peeling parts by parts, leaving a pinch of doubt, never explaining the whole background, even till the last chapters. Alexandra had a really sad and complex childhood and life, yet there was this positive aura around her character always. Also author never let the relationship between the leads go astray, sweet romantic interest to strong friendship, writer kept proper balance. If this ever gets a big screen adaptation, Schmicker’s beautiful, seductive Alessandra is one potential Oscar candidate.

It was a little spooky at times, and had to leave my headphones aside at night, maybe once or twice, still collectively it never went disturbing. I was able to visualize the whole story from my little exposure to then Italy with Ezio and Da Vinci, May god bless your servers dear Ubisoft. So read along, get completely absorbed in past, research on history and maybe, try to levitate tables 🙂

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This is the actual photograph of Eusapia Palladino levitating table, the one I believe inspired the book. She was a controversial figure of her time, Italian spiritualist physical medium according to wikipedia.

You can get a copy of book here, http://amzn.to/2a3UTN2

The Shadow Out of Time, when hard sci fi meets lovecraftian horror

shadow out of time.PNG“Lovecraft” meets “Time travel”. Woo, I love bringing people together.
At the start of this master class world building, word building, eldritch, mind bending novella, I was seeing a twisted Luthor, way too eager for a grand conflict. Having said that, this might be my favorite Lovecraft work so far, at least till my next one.

There is no best way to describe this book other than in author’s very own words
– a person of keen thoughtfulness seized a strange secondary life and leading for a greater and lesser period an utterly alien existance typified at first by vocal and bodily awkwardness, and later by a wholescale acquisition of scientific, historic, artistic and anthropologic knowledge; an acquisition carried on with feverish zest and with a wholly abnormal absorptive power. Then a sudden return of rightful consciousness, intermittently plagued ever after with vague unplacable dreams suggesting fragments of some hideous memory elaborately blotted out.

Now, back to my puny writing. So this guy, Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee is a professor with a very usual normal calm life, married with kids. The strange secondary febrile life episode happens amidst a lecture, and it renders him unusual to the ways of men, with detritus amnesia. Here is the clever part, he gains back his self in due time and resumes a very normal life. And betwixt that, our smart protagonist research thoroughly on his strange visions n memories of a higher, vivid alien civilization with the help of his son. He even publish papers on the same and all during his letter he urges us readers not to take anything as absolute, but to judge on his mind conditions and our logic coz of dearth logic. I believe, I have hooked you up enough to read the book on your own now. Plus this character is somewhat autobiographic, since the timeline of professors amnesia goes along with the breakdown H P Lovecraft had during his teenage years. And dnt be disappointed If you dont get the chance to chant ‘“Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn‘. For the Yithians are far more rewarding.

For once you get the taste of hard sci fi off Lovecraft’s pen than usual chilling accords that looks so like some vertiginous furtive past. This one is more like a weird TARDIS ride to an era of Yithians, consider them as weird conical Oods, and now you are wiped off that memory n remnants are hunting your consciousness, leaving you strangled between hallucinations and reality. Book goes a tad, At the Mountain of Madness, and am pretty sure Alien Covenant is going to borrow bits and pieces off this novella. Hope it wont go all Prometheus.

Its really difficult to give a honest review without discussing the plot and in doing so I would be ruining the whole experience. Usual short stories and novellas are about the incessant fear of unknown, here in addition a thoughts of cosmic sojourn is addressed. And in doing so none of the elements are compensated, but the scale and ideas are higher, he even mentions Einstien at some point saying the reduction of time into a coordinate. Also dont expect anything conventional when it comes to Time travel, its more an Animus experience. I would pay to watch Yithians fight Elder things aboard humankind preceding Beetles. And like usual, those vivid vistas left me wondering, what if Lovecraft was a medium and those cosmic entities did exist. And we need to start a kickstart campaign to find Necronomicon by that mad Arab.

Btw, here is something to feast on. Cant beat the read though.