Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth by Stephen Jones
Book of the Month
Shadows Over Innsmouth was a well-received anthology of works by popular modern horror authors who write their own tales based around H.P. Lovecraft's world of strange creatures who serve Cthulhu. Edited by Stephen Jones, the first anthology was so popular it spawned another, Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth, and this one has some of the most inspired writers of today; Kim Newman, Brian Lumley, Reggie Oliver, Ramsay Campbell, Michael Marshall Smith and Angela Slatter.
Kim Newman is famous for his vampire novels Anno Dracula, but here he has one of his most unusual short stories, Richard Riddle, Boy Detective in The Case of the French Spy. The book would not be the same without a story by the authors Lovecraftians are familiar with; Innsmouth Clay by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth. To make the stories go with a spooky and unnerving flow, there are illustrations all the way through by Randy Broeker. Randy sets readers off with his terrifying border illustration for the Table of Contents where all manner of warped sea creatures twist with humanoid types, juddering on the page. Randy’s style uses a great deal of lines and pointillism to get detail and adds to the scary look of the illustrations.
The anthology starts off with “The Port” by H.P. Lovecraft which is a poem that mentions Innsmouth and outlying areas, as if the one writing it was needing to leave the place, but can’t. This is the general idea for the stories, that those who are influenced by the creatures of Innsmouth can never leave, let alone be the person they were before. What follows are some of the stories I thought were of particular interest.
Innsmouth Bane, by John Glasby, has Jedediah Allen whose family had settled in Innsmouth back in 1676 and prospered until the depression. Then a certain Obed Marsh came to his attention as being the only one to have done well out of the depression and his jealousy of Marsh grows as does his suspicion. He also notices strange goings on in the area that changes the look of the local people. The instances where Allen sees Marsh deal with the strange fish-like men of Cthulhu legend could get him in danger, but as a man of integrity, he has to get to the bottom of the peculiar occurrences in Innsmouth.
Richard Riddle, Boy Detective, In the Case of the French Spy, by Kim Newman. Richard “Dick” Riddle loves nothing more than to solve riddles with his friend Violet who “wasn’t like a real girl.” When Violet’s Ammonite fossil is destroyed by their enemies, Rich thinks they are the ones behind other dodgy goings-on in the area, they there’s the look of one man’s teeth, all sharp and dangerous. Kim Newman, known for his Anno Dracula novels has excelled himself with this story which is full of clues and ideas we are familiar with as it is more like a Lovecraftian Sherlock Holmes tale.
Fish Bride, by Caitlin R. Kiernan. In Innsmouth, a couple live in relative solitude. The man comes and goes as he pleases even though he is human and she is one who has been corrupted by the Old Ones of the sea. Their loves is strange yet, they see it as normal while the other corrupted residents hate him for not being one of them and getting to be in her bed. They have their jealous ways, while he takes comfort in being with her. He still feels as though he isn’t doing enough to help her in the house, as the place is going to ruin. She doesn’t seem to care as long as he is with her. She likes his company and unlike the other stories there could be a sense of loss for her if she can’t lure him into the sea with her. Caitlin R. Keirnan has three stories in this anthology, so I decided to review the one that stood out the most to me at the time.
The Archbishop’s Well, by Reggie Oliver, leaves a son looking through his father’s journals to find out the secret behind the Archbishop’s well, but in doing so causes him to ask many questions about his father and his motivation for what he did. Made up of diary entries with dates, he sees through his father’s eyes the events that led up to the horrors that would shock him. Dean Grice wants to find out more on the well, but he has other problems to consider in the form of Felix Cutbirth, a man of strange countenance who dislikes all the church are doing to places he sees were originally created by the old gods. He warns the Dean not to mock them as he knows they will rise against them one day, and that day will come very soon. His father’s use becomes very clear when he is sent down the well to see what, if anything is down there. The shape of stone carvings of fish men and strange creatures almost frightens him, and a crown that would be something the Dean would want to see. Nothing in this type of tale goes well and his father and one young man don’t fare well at the end.
You Don’t Want to Know, by Adrian Cole. In a more modern setting, two officers from the NYPD are having trouble with the transcript from a witness who has some rather strange accounts. Detective Sergeant Ed Mullins records it and Sergeant Hal Vanner is in attendance, but the two of them can’t believe what Mr Stone, a private investigator is saying. Cole’s modern telling of a cthuloid monster in the big city is one to relish as it has humour where no one would expect it and sinister happenings where most would definitely expect them. The truth is its safe to say Ed and Hal will have some trouble getting the higher-ups to take their transcript seriously, so the solution they come up with at the end is the best - if they want to keep their jobs.
Rising, Not Dreaming, by Angela Slatter, has Orpheus playing tunes to lull the Deep Ones into a sense of slumber in the hope they will return to the sea where they come to stay in that sleep forever. His master willed him to remain there to make sure they stay sleeping and never wake. If they do, the world will become a much darker place. This is one of the shortest stories in the anthology and reads like a poem.
The Same Deep Waters as You, by Brian Hodge is where Psychic Kerry isneeded by the Department of Homeland Security to be a consultant for some inmates at a remote facility. As none of their people can communicate with them, she is their best chance at discerning what they are talking about. All these inmates have what has been termed as the ‘Innsmouth look,’ but the harrowing thing for the researchers is that they had not always looked like that. This particular fish, dead eyed look had developed over time. At first Kerry had little interest in their stories about how they came to have the ‘Innsmouth look’ but as she investigates she discovers more than just strange-looking people.
Choosing what I would consider my favourite stories from this anthology was not easy, but I found it as good as the original Shadows Over Innsmouth collection with its takes on the original stories by Lovecraft. I was pleased with how the book’s cover looked; the interior illustrations gave one a sense of dread, and added to the descriptions of the Deep Ones and other Cthuloid creatures in the stories. Editor Stephen Jones has chosen some of the best writers out there to compliment the third volume in the series and I am so glad that Titan published them again as they are a treasure to those who want to read more Lovecraftian horror.
This Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth book review was written by Sandra Scholes
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