cover image Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft

Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft. Del Rey Books, $14.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-345-38421-8

Horror master Lovecraft (1890-1937) frequently used dreams in his tales of the supernatural to evoke fantastic worlds inconceivable to the conscious mind. This repackaging of 25 stories and fragments calls attention to that aspect of Lovecraft's work, but it won't convince anyone that the selections form a coherent cycle. In the light fantasies ``Celephais,'' ``The Silver Key'' and ``The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath,'' dreams are vehicles for travel to lands of enchantment in which men rub shoulders with gods and imaginary creatures. In the terror tales ``The Dreams in the Witch-House,'' ``Hypnos'' and ``The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,'' dreams intrude upon reality and serve as portents for horrors too terrible to engage directly. Both ``The Statement of Randolph Carter'' and the prose-poem ``Nyarlathotep'' are based on actual dreams of Lovecraft's, but a number of the other stories, good though they are, have no dream association whatsoever. Comics virtuoso Neil Gaiman (Sandman) supplies a respectful introduction that gives no clue to the selection criteria and, in several places, is factually incorrect. (Lovecraft placed two tales, not one, in the magazine Astounding Stories before its name was changed to Astounding Science Fiction, and before the tenure of editor John W. Campbell.) Its failed agenda notwithstanding, this book is a welcome tribute to a writer whose dreams inspired some of this century's finest literary nightmares. (Oct.)