cover image The Road to Madness

The Road to Madness

H. P. Lovecraft. Del Rey Books, $15 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-345-38422-5

H.P. Lovecraft. Del Rey, $10 (384p) ISBN 0-345-38422-9 Lovecraft's transformation from beginner to master horror writer is the theme behind this collection of macabre tales, the third in a Del Rey trilogy of Lovecraft's work. It certainly succeeds in this design, making it both easy and informative to follow his development. But the works included here range from abysmal to excellent, with most occupying the weaker end of the range. Certain selections show Lovecraft at his gripping and imaginative best--particularly the important novella, ""At the Mountains of Madness,"" which deals with dreadful life encountered in the Antarctic wasteland (creatures who were ""above all doubt the originals of the fiendish elder myths which thing like the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon affrightedly hint about.""). But earlier works are less impressive. The first five stories, labeled ""early tales"" by their author, are among the few youthful writings that Lovecraft preserved. Three show the promise of talent to come, but the inclusion here of the xenophobic tract, ""The Street,"" is barely justifiable. Beyond these, there are many one-note and predictable tales, often additionally marred by grotesque racism. It clearly took Lovecraft a while to develop the subtlety required for suspenseful storytelling. Editorial remarks beyond the existing one-page introduction could have added much, as would dating of the pieces. Serious Lovecraft fans, however, will not want to miss this collection, if only for the few gems included and later tales that bear on the Cthulhu mythos. (Oct.)