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The Call of Distant Shores

Write on: Sun, 06 Jan 2019 by  in Charles' Reviews Be the first to comment! Read 361

Note: I've worked with the author and his publishing house but these are my honest thoughts as best I could make them. Consider yourself forewarned.

THE CALL OF DISTANT SHORES is a homage to the works of H.P. Lovecraft with a twist. David Niall Wilson is a author I have very much enjoyed the writings of ranging from his work for licensed properties like STAR TREK, VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE, and STARGATE SG-1 to his original stories like GIDEON'S CURSE as well as the DECHANCE CHRONICLES.

As a huge H.P. Lovecraft and Cthulhu Mythos fan, however, I was skeptical of him bringing anything new to the table. Many people have chosen to write in HPL's style and few people manage to become anything more than a pale imitation. The people who actually succeed in adding something new to the Mythos are those people who take the Man from Providence's work as an inspiration then do their own thing with it.

I'm pleased to say that David Niall Wilson is one of the latter rather than the former. The big thing he brings to the Cthulhu Mythos is humor. You can tell that DNW is a man who doesn't entirely take the creeping, looming, and gnawing horror of the universe all that seriously. It's not so much that man isn't irrelevant in this universe but that such things don't actually scare your average citizen. They know they're cogs in a wheel and the existence of ancient gods beyond the horizon doesn't do much to change the price of your gas bill.

The majority of protagonists in this book are various shades of idiot, working class hero, or average joe versus the nebbish scholars which serve as the prototypical Lovecraftian hero. "Are you looking for Herb?" has an obnoxious set of travelers venture off the roads into the backwoods and miss all the signs they've found themselves among people who are best left undisturbed.

"Cockroach Suckers" is my favorite of the stories here as it's a tale of people who find a horrifying eldritch entity and decide to build a freakshow around it. The superintendent of a building discovers a mad artist building unnatural grotesques that may be summoning SOMETHING horrifying but he's too distracted by the man's daughter's boobs to make much sense of it.

The book isn't entirely limited to humor, though, and contains a variety of takes on the Mythos that other authors don't necessarily touch on. For example, aside from Stuart Gordon, not many people ever explore the sexier side of the Mythos. There's just not much appealing in matings between human women and fishmen or Yog-Sogoth. Here, however, there's two stories that are a bit on the steamier side.

I also appreciated the "Call of Distant Shores" itself, which is more akin to a ghost story than a traditional Lovecraftian tale. Indeed, it's actually a tribute to Clark Ashton Smith (another member of the Lovecraft Circle). It does, however, have many themes of inherited guilt and the unfathomable otherworldly power embodied by the sea. Horror fans should enjoy the story simply because it's great fiction rather than its similarity to the work of Howard Phillips, however. I could easily see this expanded to a Stephen King BAG OF BONES-esque novel as David really manages to nail small-town life.

Another great treat in the story is a Sherlock Holmes encounter with an unnatural horror that was co-written with another author. THE SHADOW OVER BAKER STREET is one of the best anthologies ever written, in my humble opinion, and something everyone should pick up. This was the story included there and reflects the fact he's written for (in his own words) a lot of Lovecraft anthologies. At heart, David Niall Wilson gets the heart of HPL isn't tentacles or specific monsters but ideas that rattle the soul.

There's some serious and even haunting stories in this work but the sense of humor the author brings to his collection is what I give him the most props for. I also love how he tweaked the formula of so many pastiches by adding elements which the original author never touched on (romance for one). If you're looking for a short story collection that doesn't blandly copy the work of the artist formerly immortalized as the World Fantasy Awards then this is definitely a place to do your shopping.

9/10

Last modified on Sunday, 06 January 2019 21:51
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.

Website: https://ctphipps.wordpress.com/

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