Recently Lovecraftian authors have been sending me their books to review. Some are good, some are… not. But the recently published That Which Should Not Be, by Brett J. Talley, is great. In fact, it’s one of the best Lovecraftian novels I have ever read, and I don’t say that lightly.
…When Carter Weston’s professor Dr. Thayerson asks him to search a nearby village for a book that is believed to control the inhuman forces that rule the Earth, Incendium Maleficarum, The Inferno of the Witch, the student doesn’t hesitate to begin the quest. Weston’s journey takes an unexpected turn, however, when he ventures into a tavern in the small town of Anchorhead. Rather than passing the evening as a solitary patron, Weston joins four men who regale him with stories of their personal experiences with forces both preternatural and damned. Two stories hit close to home as they tie the tellers directly to Weston’s current mission…
Carter Weston listens to their stories as a snowstorm rages outside. I enjoyed the book plot very much, but one of the things that really makes this book great is that each of the stories he listens to is also excellent. In fact, any of them would stand on its own merits as a short story.
And scary? Author Brett J. Talley gets that right, too. There are quite a few genuinely frightening scenes in That Which Should Not Be, both in the “tavern stories” and in the main plot. I feel that a lot of writers get Lovecraftian horror wrong, but Brett J. Talley has expertly captured the dread and the mood that should embody a Lovecraftian story.
I won’t give away much of the plot, but here’s the synopsis from the back of the book:
Winner of the 2011 JournalStone horror writing contest… Miskatonic University has a long-whispered reputation of being strongly connected to all things occult and supernatural. From the faculty to the students, the fascination with other-worldly legends and objects runs rampant. So, when Carter Weston’s professor Dr. Thayerson asks him to search a nearby village for a book that is believed to control the inhuman forces that rule the Earth, Incendium Maleficarum, The Inferno of the Witch, the student doesn’t hesitate to begin the quest.
Weston’s journey takes an unexpected turn, however, when he ventures into a tavern in the small town of Anchorhead. Rather than passing the evening as a solitary patron, Weston joins four men who regale him with stories of their personal experiences with forces both preternatural and damned. Two stories hit close to home as they tie the tellers directly to Weston’s current mission.
His unanticipated role as passive listener proves fortuitous, and Weston fulfills his goal. Bringing the book back to Miskatonic, though, proves to be a grave mistake. Quickly, Weston realizes he has played a role in potentially opening the gate between the netherworld and the world of Man. Reversing the course of events means forgetting all he thought he knew about Miskatonic and his professor and embracing an unknown beyond his wildest imagination.
All Lovecraftians should read That Which Should Not Be. It’s available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle editions. Click here to buy it: You’ll get an awesome Lovecraftian novel to read, and you’ll be supporting a writer who just published his first book. (And, if you buy it through this website, you’ll also be supporting The Lovecraft eZine!)
I asked Brett what his motivation was in writing this book, and how he was introduced to Lovecraft:
I’ve been writing horror stories since my first vampire novel (five chapters, five pages) in second grade. Horror appeals to me for a lot of different reasons. I think horror allows us to face our fears in a comfortable, protected environment. For the writer, it gives you the opportunity to explore the darker side of humanity while exalting our finer attributes. This book in particular started out as a short story. I was playing around with this idea of a group of older men, sitting around in the middle of a storm telling stories to pass the time. I had recently read several horror novels that I found somewhat disappointing. I felt as though horror written in an older style was missing in the present day, and with everyone focusing on vampires, werewolves, and zombies, I particularly thought that good cosmic horror was much needed. Since I couldn’t find a book in that vein that I liked, I wrote my own.
Finding Lovecraft was a revelation. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with this idea that there have been civilizations (Atlantis, Lemuria, The Seven Rishi Cities) before our own that ruled the world and perhaps had advanced technology beyond our understanding. I had worked on short stories and some novel treatments based on that idea. Somehow, though, I didn’t find Lovecraft until law school. What he wrote fit so perfectly with what I always thought that I devoured his entire canon. When I decided to write a horror novel, I knew I wanted to include tributes to him, as well as many of the other great writers of the past. I tried to incorporate Lovecraft by treating his mythos as an actual philosophy, competing with and informed by other myths and religions. That way, I was able to tie a lot of legends and religious traditions into the mythos, explaining all of them as a meta-narrative of those ancient beings that once ruled the earth. The idea that there is truth in all legends, myths, and religions is a thread that runs throughout the book. It’s been somewhat controversial with some Lovecraft aficionados who reject the notion that religion should be anywhere near the world Lovecraft envisioned. I honestly don’t think he would mind. Obviously, the idea of Dagon is as old as the pyramids, and Lovecraft, while the consummate realist and skeptic, certainly infused his stories with mysticism and the fantastic. In any event, I hope people see the Lovecraftian elements of my novel as a tribute to Lovecraft, and I hope those who read it having never heard his name are introduced to the amazing world he created.
It’s a great read. Pick it up — you won’t be disappointed.
Purchase That Which Should Not Be, by Brett J. Talley.