[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]
This novel picks up where the previous one left (if you haven’t read it yet, stop here), or roughly, after Emily Lovecraft and Daniel Carter, alogn with Detective Harrelson, have been stranded in the Unfolded world for a few months, slowly adjusting to their lives in Arkham-instead-of-Providence.
And it’s not easy, because even though the Unfolded world is fairly similar when it comes to daily life (and better, in some ways, as in when Emily realises she own a nice house here instead of renting a flat), in many other ways, it is tremendously different. For starters, World War II ended much sooner, when the Third Reich dropped an A-bomb on Moscow in 1941, obliterating its whole leadership; and the Reich is now one of the world’s superwpoers, having been accepted because, well, the Holocaust didn’t concerned Jews but Communists, and for some reason this was much more acceptable to the West who turned a blind eye and ha-hemmed in a corner while it happened. Which infuriates Dan and Emily just as much, a different kind of evil still being evil after all; also, the Nazis are welcome in the USA and racism much more prevalent, so the Unfolded world isn’t so peachy for Emily herself.
(On a side note, I wish we had seen more of that. I don’t enjoy racist slurs in the least, but in terms of ‘show, don’t tell’, it never felt like Emily was really ostracised, apart from a couple of instances when some Gestapo guy said ‘who’s that black down there’ or something to that extent. In turn, the ‘lessons in political correctness’ given at times didn’t have the impact they could’ve had.)
The world is definitely not right by our heroes’ standards, who want nothing more than bring back its Folded version, but have no clues where to start… until Emily finds out she has the Necronomicon in her safe, Henry Weston is at his shenanigans again, and Daniel gets hired to spy on a joint German-US project in Miskatonic University. Weird stuff ensues, veering into spy-thriller-weird more than HPL-weird at first, but no worries, the latter is never too far behind.
Although I was hesitant at first about the spy thriller part, probably because of its apparent simplistic aspects (US vs Communists or US vs Nazis, it’s kind of the same... also Nazis make easy enemies: Instant Evil! Just add water!), the way it was handled was all in all interesting, in part because, let’s be honest, it makes for contrived enemies… but it also makes for entertaining scenarii. In fact, it reminded me of the Call of Cthulhu/Adventure! Crossover RPG I had played a few years ago, as well as of Indiana Jones movies, and I soon found my bearings again in that kind of plot and setting. We get typical but useful ingredients: scientists working on a secret project infiltrated left and right by Gestapo, Abwehr and probably a few others (Daniel even manages to throw the CIA in all that, and it blends in perfectly); research influenced by esoterism; evil cultists who’re all the more evil because they treat sacrifice as if it was a mere bureaucratic matter; a secret research facility on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean; not exactly human beings; and this mix works fairly well here.
Another thing I liked was that the focus shifted slightly in this book from Dan to Emily. We already know by now of Dan’s ancestor and the abilities he’s inherited, and there was a solid risk of Emily remaining more of a sidekick (a badass one, but a sidekick nonetheless) when it came to the weird/non-Euclidian parts. Well, let’s just say that reading can indeed empower people. (I bet you can already tell where this is going.)
Conclusion: 4 stars, it was an enjoyable read in spite of the few peeves I had about it, and I breezed through it, and now I want the next instalment.
In this volume, the Locke family moves to Keyhouse in Lovecraft, MA after Sam Lesser and a "friend" kill Rendell Locke (the Locke family father/husband). Nina, Rendell's wife, drinks away her pain, while Tyler, Rendell's oldest son, works himself to the bone and quietly drowns in memories of the attack and his feelings of guilt about asking Sam to kill his father (he was angry and venting about his father and had no clue that Sam would actually take him seriously). Kinsey, Rendell's daughter, tries to blend in at school, and little Bode explores Keyhouse and discovers a key that can turn him into a ghost. He also finds a woman who calls herself his Echo and who turns out to be a lot of trouble. She
works together with Sam to attack the family again and get herself set free. The volume ends with Echo free, Sam dead but in ghostly form, and Echo transformed into a man who goes by the name Zack and lives with Kinsey's coach (Zack killed the coach's mom for her, back in the day).
I wasn't a fan of Rodriguez's art style, although it worked reasonably well for this story. Part of it was probably that I'm a long-time manga fan and the visuals overall tend to be very different, although part of it was also that characters' facial expressions were a bit strange.
The part of the volume that I liked the best was seeing how everybody in the family was attempting to cope. Nina mistaking Bode's actual description of a thing that happened to him as a sign that he was coping badly was a nice moment.
Bode was a creepy little boy. Well, I suppose kids in general can be pretty creepy, but he seemed to be creepier than usual. This volume set him up as potentially both his family's undoing and their savior, if he can find and use the right keys. The thing about this series that really sucked me in was the potential behind Keyhouse. I would like fewer horrific murders and more cool keys, please.
The flashbacks and vague references to the things that went on when Rendell was a kid interested me and made me want to find out more about Keyhouse's past. I'll probably continue on with this series and add it to my vacation reading list, even though I'm a little worried about the series' potential for lots more gory on-page deaths (and/or rape? I think this volume might have had a couple rape threats but no actual rape - I can't remember).
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
The Early 20th Century writer HP Lovecraft has spawned a whole sub-genre of horror dedicated to his ideas, often called the Cthulhu Mythos or Lovecraftian horror. Not surprising that nearly 100 years later, people are still re-imagining his work and characters. "Carter and Lovecraft" is a different spin on Lovecraft. What if Lovecraft, frankly a huge bigot and racist, had descendants of color and one of them ran a bookshop? What if one of his recurring characters, Randolph Carter, actually existed, and his descendant was a police officer? And they team up in a story? Well, that's this book. Daniel Carter is a detective who has lived through the trauma of his partner killing himself in front of him after they rescue a kid from a serial killer. His last words referring to "the twist". Carter resigns from the police and becomes a private detective. Shortly thereafter, he inherits a bookstore from a person he never knew in Providence, Rhode Island. When he goes down there, he meets Mina Lovecraft, an African American woman who runs the bookstore for her uncle, who disappeared months ago and has been heard from since. Around the same time, Carter is hired on a case that leads to some very strange murders committed by a rogue mathematician. Could all these things be related? Yes. So this is a very strange book. It's relatively short, but there's a lot here to chew on. Howard knows his Lovecraft. This book is full of nuggets and easter eggs for Lovecraftian enthusiasts. I was encouraged to look up some elements of the story, and it gets deep into the Mythos. I think he captured the aspect of Lovecraft in that you feel like you have no idea about what's going on and you probably won't find out. He also touches on the visceral horror that is integral to Lovecraft. In some ways, he develops some aspects of the Mythos better. His characters are more fleshed out and are used as more than devices to spread the feeling of fear and fatalism about an indifferent universe. He picks up some concepts and themes from some of Lovecraft's stories and creates a new story out of them set in the 21st Century. But my favorite part is how Howard subversively dissects Lovecraft's bigotry and racism. Mina is a descendant would have done Lovecraft proud if he could get past his white supremacy and racism. She's thoughtful, intelligent, emotionally stable, well-read, and loyal and very strong. She had a matter-of-fact approach to weirdness, which is enviable, considering some of the events that happen in this family. She seems to be the antidote to Lovecraft's claustrophobic fear of the Other and conviction that some people are just genetically inferior. Daniel Carter is a good co-lead. He's a decent guy. As a cop, he tends to be a skeptic about things, but in the face of weirdness, he doesn't shut down, he follows the lead. I like that he had to confront his own hidden prejudices and comes out a better man after he did so. He does feel at times the helplessness in the face of events beyond their comprehension that is emblematic of Lovecraft's protagonists, but doesn't give into and doesn't allow it to break his mind. There's a developing connection between Carter and Lovecraft, but it's nascent. They become friends, and its likely what they go through will only strengthen that bond. It is possible that things may become romantic over time. But more importantly, they know that they have each others' backs. Of course, there had to be some weird people, because it's Lovecraft. The rogue mathematician, the Waites, femme fatales who are simultaneously sexy but also deeply wrong, and their brain dead spouses, the mysterious lawyer who informs Carter of the bequest. Enough to make any reader feel uneasy about everything. So why the <b>3.5/5.0 star </b>rating? The main feeling I came out of this was "What did I just read?" It feels short to me. It was a book that kept my interest, and I liked the main characters, but I also felt like there was a lot that I didn't get or understand when it ended. There are some gruesome elements to this story and subject matter that made me uncomfortable. This one is not for young readers. Frankly, I was a bit disturbed by some imagery. The rogue mathematician who discovers a way to manipulate reality is a profoundly damaged individual lacking in morals. His acts are unconscionable and bizarrely cruel. To him, murder is manipulating the odds. It's always hard to read about people like this for me. Readers who like having the questions will enjoy this book. I think I would have preferred a longer book that delved a little deeper into those unanswered questions. This is going to be a series, so maybe things will be more fleshed out in later books. I like the main characters and the concept, so I'll keep reading.
At the end of the excellent CARTER & LOVECRAFT there was a major cliffhanger and I felt compelled to request an ARC of the next book. I have to admit I was disappointed with AFTER THE END OF THE WORLD.
The things I loved most in the universe that Jonathan Howard has created was the weirdness of it-the mysterious Mr. Weston who started everything off by showing up and awarding Dan Carter ownership of a bookshop, run by Emily Lovecraft. (Emily is black and you can almost hear Lovecraft turning over in his grave.) I also enjoyed an area called Waite's Bill, an isolated place on the shore where creepy, mysterious people live. (Not to mention the large amphibian-like creatures emerging from the water!) Unfortunately, other than Dan Carter and Emily, most of the mysterious fun things I liked from the first book were not here.
The world has unfolded, (the major event which ended CARTER & LOVECRAFT), and we're now in a universe where we are great friends with Germany and the Holocaust never happened. A group of Germans working at Miskatonic University are trying to build a machine that will provide unlimited power without draining any natural resources. Mr. Weston makes a brief appearance and Carter gets involved as a security guard at MU.
From there, I feel like the tale crept away from the components that I enjoyed and veered into the area of weird science-fiction, with the entire group of scientists, (as well as Carter and Lovecraft), traveling to the Aleutian Islands to continue their work on the power machine. The pacing slowed way down and I really couldn't have cared less about the machine, the Germans, or anything else for that matter. Events degenerated until the story was more like an action movie than the dark fiction horror story I was expecting. I don't care for action movies.
I still love Dan and Emily and am fascinated by Mr. Weston and the weird creatures, but I'm not sure I'll continue with the series if there is another book. This case is one of those "It's me, not you" situations, I think, because everyone else seemed to love this book. While I admired the world building and the banter between my favorite characters, the meat of the story just didn't appeal to me.
*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it. I'm sorry it's a little late.*