My dear unknown friend,
When Mike Davis first emailed me that Permuted Platinum had contacted Lovecraft eZine about reviewing Peter Clines’ novel The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe my first thoughts weren’t exactly courtly. I won’t waste ink or your time adding to the clamoring din over works such as Snoopy Versus the Shoggoths yet as I grow older I’m delighted when I find my curmudgeonly preconceptions overturned. While I myself had never read Peter Clines’ work I did recall Peter Rawlik saying good things about Clines’ novels 14 and The Fold on an episode of the Lovecraft eZine webcast. Peter Rawlik is someone I consider a Beowulf writer in a field awash with Dantes (Neal Stephenson first offered this distinction in question #2 of this Slashdot interview). When a Beowulf writer offers a recommendation, I file it away for future reference. With these factors in mind I said, “What the hell. I’m game.”
While waiting I read 14 and Rawlik was right. It’s a well written book that should be made into a film by Joss Whedon post-haste. Readers of Lovecraft eZine would find plenty to love within its pages. So when The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe arrived in my inbox I cleared my schedule, loaded up several new mixes, and dove in eagerly.
Peter Clines is a craftsman, he knows there is no point in teasing out the surprises in The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe so he lays them out before you, right in the title and in the cover painting. Robinson Crusoe is a werewolf. That is a mighty fine set of tentacles our titular hero is staring at so pensively on the cover and of course we all know what tentacles are shorthand for nowadays. The delight in this novel is how Clines works these mythologies into the well-known plot line of Robinson Crusoe and the deftness with which he handles them.
Robinson informs us early on that his lycanthropy (or “The Beast” as he refers to it) is a hereditary affair, passed from father to son. His father, a merchant of good standing, instructed him in the manner of dealing with The Beast and made plans for Robinson to enter the profession of a lawyer, a position that would have allowed Robinson to live a comfortable life with little danger of his double life being detected. (This quiet humor I suspect a hallmark of Clines’ work.) Robinson has other ideas and like rebellious youngsters before and since defies his father’s designs and sets out to sea.
Sailors it seems are familiar with residents of the mythos. On his first voyage the ship he sails on is caught by storms in the Yarmouth Roads, where young Robinson witnesses other ships floundering and hears his fellow sailor’s cries of “shoggoths” which he takes as a nautical term for high waves. Oh to be young and innocent once more.
We all know the story of Robinson Crusoe. There is nothing to spoil here. With the addition of The Beast Clines has given us a new reason to revisit this classic and play once again within its sandbox. I particularly enjoyed the conceit that just as Robinson is aware of his lycanthropic side and must take steps to mitigate the damage The Beast is capable of meting out to allies and material supplies alike, so to is The Beast aware of his human side and is capable of utilizing that animal cunning to vent its frustration and rage if stymied for too long. This lends an extra level of challenge to Robinson’s trials and tribulations that feels similar to playing chess against oneself.
Then we have those tentacles. This dear heart is truly where we see the deftness of touch I spoke of previously. Clines incorporates the Cthulhu mythos into Robinson Crusoe quite ably and I’m happy to say by returning the mythos to its very source. You know I hate stealing the pleasing explorations that reading a new book gives yet I will warn you, if you’re looking for a novel that continues the recent trend of Cthulhu rising like kaiju to wreak havoc and mayhem, tearing all asunder, then this is not your cup of tea. However, if your appreciation falls more in line with “The Call of Cthulhu” then you may relish what Peter Clines has accomplished with The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe. Indeed a large difficulty in writing this review lies in not naming the canonical stories Clines riffs upon so capably because even the act of naming would rob the astute genre fan the frisson of verification.
This I believe is where Peter Clines has truly succeeded with The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe. To the casual reader it is an enjoyable romp through the currently fashionable field of the literary mashup. To the genre fan it unfolds unused paths, new tracings to consider. For a novel I took on as a dare and a challenge I find myself eager to see if Clines returns to the world of The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe because not only does it feel as if this world is just beginning to reveal itself to our eyes but this tale truly does continue on beyond the page as I find myself going “Oh!” as my recollection of the novel and Lovecraft’s mythos slots yet another piece in the puzzle. Then again, I am a bear of limited intelligence, your mileage may vary.
While reading this novel I wholeheartedly recommend the mixes of postrockpaperscissors. With a blend of ambient, minimalist, modern classical, and post rock bands plus several guest-curated episodes his weekly mixes have not only introduced me to a variety of artists of which I was previously unaware, but his vast back-catalog has guaranteed hours of music to accompany my reading binges.
This article by Acep Hale.