At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror

At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror

A complete short novel, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is a tale of terror unilke any other. The Barren, windswept interior of the Antarctic plateau was lifeless--or so the expedition from Miskatonic University thought. Then they found the strange fossils of unheard-of creatures...and the carved stones tens of millions of years old...and, finally, the mind-blasting terror of...

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Title:At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror
Author:H.P. Lovecraft
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Edition Language:English

At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror Reviews

  • Sara

    Ohhhhhhh THIS is why everyone loves H.P. Lovecraft!

    Jeez why didn't anyone tell me?

    Let's talk about horror. I don't mean Stephen King horror where no matter how many alien clowns or rabid dogs there are the worst monster will always be man's cruelty. And I don't mean zombie plague horror. Or even Dick Cheney, Bohemian Grove, we all know there's a shadow government running everything oh jesus I need to build a bomb shelter real world horror.

    I'm talking about primordial, instinctive,

    Ohhhhhhh THIS is why everyone loves H.P. Lovecraft!

    Jeez why didn't anyone tell me?

    Let's talk about horror. I don't mean Stephen King horror where no matter how many alien clowns or rabid dogs there are the worst monster will always be man's cruelty. And I don't mean zombie plague horror. Or even Dick Cheney, Bohemian Grove, we all know there's a shadow government running everything oh jesus I need to build a bomb shelter real world horror.

    I'm talking about primordial, instinctive, part of your blood and bones horror.

    Because that's the kind of horror H.P. Lovecraft was interested in.

    Before I began reading his work my impression of Lovecraft was limited entirely to large monsters with octopus faces. And to be fair there are an abnormally high number of those in many of his stories. Creatures like that do figure somewhat in

    but they're part of much grander, bleaker story that totally delighted me and gave me the best kind of shivery tinglies.

    The story is told from the perspective of geologist William Dyer. In the early 1930's Dyer was part of a much publicized expedition to Antarctica that ended under a shroud of mysterious tragedy. The details of what actually transpired were never made public. Now, some years later, on the eve of another expedition Dyer is telling his story to the world in the hopes of averting an even greater disaster.

    Right out of the gate the stakes are enormously high. There's a sense of urgency to everything Dyer shares with us. Even as he chronicles the more mundane details of organizing the trip and the initial days of discovery there's a roiling tension underneath that only grows as the expedition moves further into heretofore unexplored territory. Lovecraft just totally nails the balance between the desolation of this part of the world and the intense, untouched beauty of it. I wanted to see this place with my own eyes, he totally made me understand why these men wanted to go there.

    This place is epic in every way. I could feel the endless expanse of it, the fucking agelessness of the place. I wanted to know what it looked like thousands of years ago, what amazing mysteries might be hiding under the ice that could change the entire history of civilization just as much as Dyer did.

    Inevitably things start to go very wrong. Dyer and his fellow scientists discover some fossils that simply do not make any sense and the geological formations they can begin to make out in the distance look distinctly unnatural. Then tragedy strikes when a group breaks off from the original party to scout ahead and their camp is attacked. Dyer and the survivors are left to learn what became of the scouts and what or who is responsible. But even when they find the answers it seems there is something else out there in the blinding, white, and ageless mountains that is more terrible than anything they could have imagined.

    Honestly I don't want to go into too much more detail than that because even if you think you know how the story plays out, even if you've read monster's from beyond the dawn of time tales a hundred times, you haven't read nothin' till you've tried this one on.

    There's something so seductive about the way Lovecraft blends mounting terror and the sort of preternatural beauty of his setting. Even while you're dreading the inevitable confrontation with some kind of epic evil you want the men to keep going so you can see more of this world. Its like he breaks his characters (and the reader) down to these very basic, primitive forms. These explorers don't have a choice but to keep moving forward even while logically they know what they're risking. The war between primitive instincts and modern knowledge is just totally gripping.

    Yes, Lovecraft's language gets a little overwrought sometimes. If he can't figure out how to describe something he literally writes things like "I don't know how to describe this but trust me it was so scary!" I've read short stories of his that are utterly absurd in that regard. But,

    is one for the ages. I finally understand why he's regarded as the father of modern horror. I am desperate to see Guillermo Del Toro make his into a movie.

    This isn't just a scary monster story, its a fascinating parable about the damage hubris can do, where it can lead. The search for knowledge is a noble one but its also fraught with dangers that we can't even conceive of. Not all the answers to our questions will be the ones we want. Not all the things under the ice were meant to be found. We have to decide which terror we can stand. The terror of not knowing or the terror of knowing too much.

  • Cat

    Can't get enough of those non-Euclidean horrors. At the Mountain of Madness is about Arctic explorers discovering a huge abandoned alien city. The descriptions of the Elder Ones makes me think I could create an realistic illustration, by drawing on starfish, anemones, urchins and clams for body parts. Anyhoo, a great story of majestic terror.

    The Shunned House is basically about a vampiric house, although I must give it props for the good sense to include a flame thrower, even though it did

    Can't get enough of those non-Euclidean horrors. At the Mountain of Madness is about Arctic explorers discovering a huge abandoned alien city. The descriptions of the Elder Ones makes me think I could create an realistic illustration, by drawing on starfish, anemones, urchins and clams for body parts. Anyhoo, a great story of majestic terror.

    The Shunned House is basically about a vampiric house, although I must give it props for the good sense to include a flame thrower, even though it didn't work.

    Dreams in the Witch House was the creepiest of the three. Fortunately, the hubris and obliviousness of Lovecraft's protagonists never fails to crack me up and relieve my suspense. Example: Well, ever since I've moved into this asymmetrical cell that used to be inhabited by a witch that most of Arkham is convinced is still alive, I've been sleep walking and have disturbing dreams. Never mind that I keep catching glimpses of a furry creature, that matches the description of the witches familiar Brown Jenkin or that I can't seem to patch the rat hole in my room, there just has to be a logical scientific explanation for all this...

    Sure... just keep telling yourself that.

  • Lou
  • Mike (the Paladin)

    I've read several collections of Lovecraft. Often I've read the same story as he was mortal and had to stop writing at his death...though if anyone might have continued on it would probably have been H. P. Lovecraft or Poe.

    Oddly (I suppose) I'm not a "died in the wool" horror fan, but something about Lovecraft and his original twist on "it" (which has been copied often since) caught my interest. I've since looked up books Lovecraft himself listed as influences and read many of his "pulp era" pe

    I've read several collections of Lovecraft. Often I've read the same story as he was mortal and had to stop writing at his death...though if anyone might have continued on it would probably have been H. P. Lovecraft or Poe.

    Oddly (I suppose) I'm not a "died in the wool" horror fan, but something about Lovecraft and his original twist on "it" (which has been copied often since) caught my interest. I've since looked up books Lovecraft himself listed as influences and read many of his "pulp era" peers and successors.

    Lovecraft's voice frankly dancing along the borders of madness in some of his stories contrasts with others of the time and since. He gives us stories where "normalcy" gives way to the strangeness beneath. They are well done and often stick with you.

    In short,I like Lovecraft.

  • Timothy Urges

    Lovecraft, what can I say that has never been said? You tend to babble and overindulge in unnecessary explanation, but I forgive you.

    is your favorite word and fittingly so. Your art will last as long, if not longer.

    At the Mountains of Madness: 4

    The Shunned House: 2

    The Dreams in the Witch-House: 4

    The Statement of Randolph Carter: 3

  • mark monday

    great collection.

    a fun, brief shaggy dog story with a pretty famous last line. moral of the tale: don't go looking for kicks inside of tombs. duh!

    Lovecraft at his most Lovecraft. displays his strengths and weaknesses equally. a whole lot of tell and not a lot of show... but the "history" recounted in the story was really absorbing to me. I love History as Horror. a whole lot of florid prose and hysterical emotions... annoying to some, I suppose, but I loveduh!collection.3

    great collection.

    a fun, brief shaggy dog story with a pretty famous last line. moral of the tale: don't go looking for kicks inside of tombs. duh!

    Lovecraft at his most Lovecraft. displays his strengths and weaknesses equally. a whole lot of tell and not a lot of show... but the "history" recounted in the story was really absorbing to me. I love History as Horror. a whole lot of florid prose and hysterical emotions... annoying to some, I suppose, but I love it. this story can be boiled down as such: the sadly brief adventure of two gents trying to figure out what exactly is up with a terrible house in Providence. two-thirds of the story recounts the creepy story of this house and its various doomed inhabitants and the last third is about those two curious fellows spending too long in a particularly bad room of that house. what they discover is surprisingly weird and not what I expected.

    this is the real find of the book as it doesn't often make its way into Lovecraft collections. young Walter Gilman is a student at Miskatonic University and a resident of one of Arkham's apparently common haunted houses. he encounters a dead witch, her rat-like familiar Brown Jenkins, and the "black man" also known as Nyarlathotep (my personal favorite of the Cthulhu bunch). many psychedelic dreams ensue in which Walter travels across multiple dimensions and sees bizarre things while slowly realizing he is being entrapped in a plan to sacrifice an infant and then be whisked away on a one-way trip to the throne of Azathoth. those dreams were fascinating and included all sorts of details that were both vividly odd and surprisingly precise. I was fascinated by the image of the witch and her familiar's dream-shapes:

    the whole story has the feeling of a hysterical, escalating fever dream. I love those sorts of dreams!

    classic novella about an ill-fated expedition into an alien city on the Antarctica Plateau. this is the make-it-or-break-it point for Lovecraft novices. if you can't deal with the hyperventilating style and all of the history as horror, best to give up because this is Lovecraft in a nutshell.

    during my

    , I realized that my favorite thing about this novella is the parallel narrative that is submerged within the story. there's the tale recounted by the expedition leader that makes up the entirety of the narrative... but within that is the story of aliens woken by this expedition, forced to cope with an entirely new world after a millennium of sleeping, their journey back to their now desolate and abandoned homeland, and their tragic battle with the monsters that have remained there. poor aliens! I really felt for them. and I was surprised at the amount of sympathy that the often offensively xenophobic Lovecraft clearly had for them as well. I guess we all have our soft spots...

    awwwwwww, just look at this adorable lil' baby Cthulhu and his sweet little button-eyes that don't even recognize you as sentient:

    all he wants to do is grow up, invade our dreams, and re-take

    his planet. don't judge him.

  • Michael

    To save you time, I shall summarize this novelette for you. If the subject comes up at a cocktail party, (1) pretend you've really read it, (2) find cooler cocktail parties. But, really, this has some INTENSE spoilers.

    AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS (Now with additions to satisfy the whiners)

    Okay, so, there's like TEN scientists, and it doesn't matter what their names are, because none of them have personalities. For the purposes of making this more exciting, lets say their names are Michael, Eh!, Jacob, Ceridw

    To save you time, I shall summarize this novelette for you. If the subject comes up at a cocktail party, (1) pretend you've really read it, (2) find cooler cocktail parties. But, really, this has some INTENSE spoilers.

    AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS (Now with additions to satisfy the whiners)

    Okay, so, there's like TEN scientists, and it doesn't matter what their names are, because none of them have personalities. For the purposes of making this more exciting, lets say their names are Michael, Eh!, Jacob, Ceridwen, Caris, Jason, Manny, Brian and Aerin. And, by the way, now would be the appropriate time to turn all the lights off, except for maybe a few candles to get a spooky mood going.

    Okay, so! Our brave crew of scientists are going down to the South Pole to study something Scientific. Lets imagine it's the effects of global warming. They're gonna check to see how much more ice has melted, and whether or not the penguins are sweating to death and whatnot. But, when we get down there to the pole, there's a big snow-storm! Some of us are kinda big pussies, so we don't want to fly to the research site and maybe die on the way, so we let the most courageous ones go first. So Ceridwen, Brian, Jason, and Eh! all hop into the plane and fly into the snowy sky.

    We cowards are all hanging around and playing Mario Kart and arguing about whether Jay-Z is the new Frank Sinatra, and, if so, whether Beyonce is Dean Martin or Sammy Davis Jr. We're waiting on messages, but we're all on T-Mobile, and you can't even get service in fucking KANSAS CITY on T-Mobile, so you aren't getting SHIT at the south pole. Every now and then, though, our associates manage to get a text message through to us. The first one is all like,

    WEIRD BUILDINGS, REMINISCENT OF ROERICH PAINTINGS, ALSO OF CHAPTERS FROM THAT OH-SO-HARD TO LOCATE TOME, THE NECRONOMICON, WRITTEN BY THAT CRAFTY FOREIGNER, ABDUL AL HAZZAD BIN LADEN.

    And we're all like, "Yeah, I remember that old, impossible to find tome. I was flipping through its shadow-laden pages for no reason whatsoever this one time. So, there's general agreement: sounds like Necronomicon, chapter 5: "On Scary Arctic Architecture and Other Scary Things Too."

    Meanwhile, Ceridwen was building a small hospital with her bare hands, crafting perfect rectangular bricks out of snow. Jason, who was practicing his quickdrawing skills, said, "Do you want any help with that?"

    "Nope," Ceridwen said. "It's just a small hospital; it shouldn't take me too long."

    Meanwhile, Eh! was standing in a snowdrift in deep meditation. Focusing her qi energy, she pitched a ball of focused, dense air forward, and used it to explode the head off of a snowman that Brian was making.

    "Stop doing your ninja moves on my snowmen, Eh!" Brian said. "That's the fifth snowman you've ruined!"

    With a shrug, Eh! turns toward a high plateau of ice and begins focusing her qi once again. With another blast of air, she caused an avalanche of frozen ice shards that levelled the rest of Brian's snowman army.

    Back in cowardville, the phone vibrates again, and says WE FOUND SOME FREAKY, HALF-VEGETABLE-HALF-ANIMALS THAT SEEM PERFECTLY FROZEN. WE'RE GONNA DESCRIBE THEM FOR LIKE 1000 WORDS, BUT YOU AREN'T GONNA HAVE A FUCKING CLUE WHAT WE'RE SAYING, and then they do. When they're done describing the strange beasts, they say, WE'RE KINDA FREAKED OUT, IT LOOKS LIKE SOME STRANGE ANCIENT RACE HAS LIVED HERE IN THE PAST. WE ALL AGREE IT SOUNDS LIKE THE "ANCIENT ONES" FROM THE NECRONOMICON, CHAPTER 7.

    Now, we were all excited about the scientific possibilites, so much so that Jacob thoughtfully scratched his ironic beard, and Caris jizzed in his pants. We waited, and we waited, but no more texts arrived.

    Then, finally, we got one last message:

    AAAAAAARRRRRGH! ICK. DEAD.

    And we were skeptical about exactly what this means, so we all loaded into the other helicopter. (The arctic storm had lessened, btw.) We flew out there to the research site, and we saw the penguins were indeed sweating to death. But, more importantly, we saw the strange, arctic structures that immediately reminded us of our undergrad perusals of that old, lost and forgotten tome, and also the Roerich painting. (This comparison to Roerich is VERY important: if my imitation were even more close to the original, it would sound more like this:

    But, in my efforts to entertain, I will omit much of the Roerich-ing.)

    Even more importantly than these strange ancient structures (Roerich) was what we then saw: the mutilated bodies of our erstwhile comrades! Brian was all over the campsite in gloopy red chunks, like someone had broken a pinata filled with raw sirloin. Ceridwen lay with huge bites out of her, as if some large beast had been noshing on her. And, stranger still, Jason's body was in the very small hospital Ceridwen had built with her bare hands. It appeared a surgery had been done on him, very carefully inspecting all of his insides, but leaving him mostly intact. Part of his body was missing, cut away with amazing precision, as if by a laser.

    Anyway, this was all incredibly frightening, and we couldn't imagine what had happened to our unfortunate comrades. But we were on a set schedule, so we went to doing our work.

    We went in to check out the strange buildings, and Manny is all like, "I'm going to go off alone this way and see what I can find," and we're like, "Okay, whatev." A few minutes later, as we walk with our torches through the very very unpleasantly dark hallways, we hear Manny scream. Like a girl. Then silence.

    We pressed on.

    Strange pictures were scattered around the walls of these inner chambers, pictures of those strange creatures from the Necronomicon. The pictures told a story of how the creatures came to earth, and how they created life as we know it as a cure for their boredom, and how they grew people in a big bowl, kind of like sea monkeys.

    We passed through vast chambers, many of them, for like pages and pages...I mean, hours and hours. By the time we were done looking at all the wall murals, several more of our party had died from boredom.

    Jacob was walking along with the torch, and he was like, "Is that one of those ancient whatchamacallits?" And it was: recently dead, looking like it has died out of pure fright. Then, we heard a deep, throaty cackle from down one of the chambers.

    Brad said, "What the shit was that?"

    And I was all like, "I didn't know you were here, Brad!"

    And he was like, *shrug*.

    "It sounds like some tremendous bird!" Jacob said.

    "Like a really big chicken!" I said.

    We noticed a great, foul-smelling fog coming from the darkness before us, like we were buried in a pile of high school gym socks filled with dog poop. We started running and shrieking through the dark, dank, dark corridors. Turkeys are fucking dangerous as hell, and this thing sounded even bigger.

    For some stupid reason, Caris was all like, "Let's simultaneously turn and look and see what's back there, looming up from the stenchy darkness!"

    So we did. And it wasn't just a chicken. It was scarier than that. It was a big blob of protoplasm flowing forward, with an endless supply of eyeballs and mouths rising to its surface, the mouths howling out in that frightening "cluck, cluck, cluck."

    We came to a chamber with some penguin babies in it, and we started field-goal kicking them back into the darkness, hoping to slow down the onset of that protoplasmic horror from the depths of earth's coldest and darkest recesses.

    It didn't slow the thing down, so we tripped Brad. Then, Caris tripped on a pocket of strangely dense air. Jacob and I kept running.

    I smelled feces, and I had a suspicion about what just happened in Jacob's pants. Behind us, behind that wall of rancid fog, we could hear that blob of ancient unknowable soulless funkiness devouring Brad and Caris, and they moaned with pain and horror as they sank into it and were quickly digested.

    Finally, we got back outside and ran to the helicopter. Aerin was snoozing in the pilot's seat. We shook her awake and said, "Step on it!"

    The helicopter lifted into the air, and Aerin was like, "It smells like you guys stepped in shit." And I said, "It was Jacob," and he said, "Way to narc me out," and I was like, "Dude, it's not a big mystery, maybe next time we go investigate ancient evils you should wear a diaper." He was upset, and, in an attempt to distract himself from the embarassing situation, looked over his shoulder at the receding mountains...and glimpsed something so petrifyingly horrific, so vast and abysmally bleak, horror that Jacob may never fully recover emotionally, and might only speak in sentence fragments for the rest of his life:

    "The spires. . . of doom. . . . the ancient blood of souls forgotten. . . the peaks of apocalypse birth. . . the cluttered geography of darkness. . . "

    Not to mention he shat himself again.

  • J.L.   Sutton

    Reading Lovecraft is sometimes a bit frustrating. There is only so long that the nameless terror can move the narrative forward. Perhaps a longer review to follow which might explain how I can like Lovecraft without really liking his writing.

  • Greg

    I really wanted to like this more. The style of writing I couldn't get over though, and his roundabout way of getting to any of the 'horror' was more painful to me than what would befall the characters in these stories. That said I did really like the ideas in the stories though, but again the writing killed it for me, especially all the superlatives that would be added before even the smallest detail of horror was given.

  • Michael

    I just don't know what to say about Lovecraft. It's all good spooky fun, but... he really isn't a good writer. He's very repetitive, and tends to fall back on the trick of "this is the memoir of stuffy and stilted layman, so that's why it's badly written." Also there's way too much "ZOMG! It was so terrifying to behold that words cannot describe it!" "It was like that indescribable utterly terrifying thing that you are utterly terrified of but can't describe because it's so utterly terrifying!"

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