Hello again to my readers!
The basic plot of the story is as follows: The narration comes from a surviving member of a scientific expedition to the Antarctic plateau as an attempt to prevent a foolish return to the areas excavated by their crew and prevent what happened to them occurring to others. The intention of the expedition was to find – and if discovered excavate – rock and plant specimens from deep within the continental shelf. But barren lands and long abandoned caves are not all that this scientist and his ilk discovered…
The story At The Mountains Of Madness is among the longest single stories by the famous H.P. Lovecraft, father of the ubiquitous Cthulhu Mythos, and several other unconnected but still highly regarded stories. As a personal side-note I shall make a small comment here that Cthulhu is by far not the most powerful of the Old Ones and Cthulhu has considerably more to him than just tentacle monster octopus thing in the sky – even if this story doesn’t directly involve Cthulhu.
This story is rather gripping and convincingly written. The narrator takes the form of a geologist who is part of an extensive expedition plan complete with biologists, students of all kinds of fields and transport aids with all sorts of devices in case they are of use. His attitude early on definitely fits someone attempting to tell a story that they know very few people – if any – will believe. The story is partially told through a memoir of the occurrences looking back on them and partly through quotations from the narrator’s diary as they happened at the time. You can definitely believe early on that this is how a scientist from the early years of the 20th century would act. He is either thinking purely technically or simply fascinated by the discoveries that they make early on. Once things do start to go wrong however, you can simply feel the panic and fear rising in everything that the expedition does. And it doesn’t take long for that same fear to spread to an interested listener.
The audiobook’s narration comes from a Edward Herrmann, an actor and director who worked on several projects ranging from portraying Franklin D. Roosevelt on several occasions including the original film version of the Annie musical and acting as narrator for several documentaries by noted film maker Ken Burns as well as receiving awards for his narration of multiple audiobooks. His performance in this instance is wonderfully done. As the tension slowly builds throughout you can hear and feel the rising terror as the traditional scientific mind fights against the unnameable and unknowable that was Lovecraft’s wheelhouse. I won’t deny having listened to this particular audiobook on several occasions and having been frankly, brilliantly terrified every time. I have wanted to review this particular tale for a considerable time and actively had to hold myself back so I could review it during Halloween.
Even if modern horror is not exactly your favourite thing in the world and slasher films or jump scares ruin the enjoyment for you I highly recommend giving the Blackstone Audio edition of At The Mountains Of Madness a listen during the season of chills. It’s perfectly paced slow burn allows it to creep into your mind and scare you senseless without any excess attempts to shock the reader or listener awake. I am genuinely saddened we never got the film version planned by Guillermo Del Toro of The Shape of Water fame. If anyone could have pulled off a visual version of – in my personal opinion – Lovecraft’s masterpiece it would have been him.
I know that Lovecraft himself has something of a stained reputation due to his very outdated even for the time personal beliefs but regardless of the author’s views the story itself is still considered a masterwork of early horror. Separating the author from the work as much as possible what you have is a tale that creeps its way into your mind and never lets go. I just hope I won’t be the only one reading or listening as the moon rises.