You may purchase Dunwich: A Novel here.
My dear unknown friend,
Last year when I reviewed Peter Levenda’s The Lovecraft Code. I finished said review with the words, “I fervently hope Levenda continues with further works in this universe . . .” Obviously something up there likes me because here we are, with Dunwich: A Novel, continuing the adventures of Gregory Angell. Yet the novel does so much more, widening the horizons of Levenda’s universe, introducing new players, themes, concepts and struggles while deepening our understanding and relationship with characters we had already grown familiar with from The Lovecraft Code.
As should be obvious from the title, Dunwich: A Novel takes Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” as its base from which to tease forth the multi-faceted web of its inspiration. This does not mean Levenda has abandoned the threads from “The Call of Cthulhu” that drove The Lovecraft Code, this merely provides another layer of manipulation and dark intrigue for our protagonists to contend with. Amongst these new layers, one of my favorites is Detective Cuneo of the New Orleans PD who has been called to investigate the murder of an 83-year-old woman in her own basement. Yet this case quickly widens into a mystery of impossible architecture that has Detective Cueno wishing he’d never transferred from Manhattan to New Orleans. I was also captivated by the tale of Harry, an NSA analyst and his supervisor, Sylvia Matos. Harry’s job is to spend each day, all day, analyzing porn. It has come to light certain groups have begun using stenography to hide messages within pornographic images. Harry notices an anomalous tattoo appearing across a steady range of images and he takes this hunch as to its significance to his supervisor, Sylvia, half-expecting to be shown the door. Instead characters and plot lines from The Lovecraft Code are brought back to the fore and the plots thicken.
One of the points I enjoy most with Levenda’s Lovecraftian fiction is when he writes of intelligence agencies and military operatives he’s one of the few writers who does not fall into Tom Clancy mode wherein all enlisted adore their officers, every character has a black belt in BJJ (how does one arm-bar a tentacle?) and there’s sudden ballistics reports interrupting the narrative just so one knows the author has done their research. It’s easy to maintain the suspension of disbelief within Levenda’s world because he gets it, he understands the weeks of mind-numbing boredom interrupted by insane scenes of absolute terror and is able to communicate this feeling effectively within his writing. As I wrote previously in the review for The Lovecraft Code these books are a treasure trove for anyone that plays Delta Green or any similarly themed RPG. Nail the tone of these novels and you will be graced with captivated players.
If like myself you’re a fan of Levenda’s oeuvre as a whole there are wonderful Easter eggs awaiting you within the pages of Dunwich: A Novel. In my review of The Lovecraft Code I wrote of the CCRU and their theory of “hyperstition“; ” “Superstitions are merely false beliefs, but hyperstitions – by their very existence as ideas – function causally to bring about their own reality.” What I found amusing in the time between my readings of Dunwich: A Novel was that I read a work published by a more “academic” press touted as a piece of theory-fiction in the vein of Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia (Negarestani was affiliated with CCRU). Cyclonopedia pioneered the field of theory-fiction, which is why it was name-dropped, yet for my money Levenda’s work with these two novels and the manner in which they intertwine with the rest of not only his own oeuvre but Lovecraft’s as well easily trumps the other work in question by operating at multiple levels simultaneously and their gleeful mixture of fiction and non-fiction. This of course falls into my favorite definition of academia; “trying to fit into theory that which they’ve seen work in practice.”
At this point it would be expected and easy for me to say I was worried of a sophomore slump going into Dunwich: A Novel yet in truth I felt no such trepidation. Levenda had already shown himself an apt hand at fiction with The Lovecraft Code and that hand only grows more assured with Dunwich: A Novel. I see these books as “growers”. As word of mouth spreads amongst Mythos fans they will become highly sought after pieces of work. These novels stand just slightly off the beaten path awaiting discovery, yet when the right audience stumbles across them and begins to unravel the myriad threads Levenda has woven throughout, a devoted and multi-faceted fanbase will emerge. I’d snatch these hardcovers while you can.
Soundtrack for this review:
You may purchase Dunwich: A Novel here.
Feature image by Morano. You may see more of their creations here.
This review by Acep Hale.