01/03/2010. Contributed by Neale Monks
pub: Solaris/Rebellion Publishing/HarperCollins. 606 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84416-762-3).
check out websites: www.solarisbooks.com and www.brianlumley.com
This collection of 24 short stories by Brian Lumley includes works published between 1969 and 1991. Although they all share links with the works of H.P. Lovecraft, they are not all of the same type. There's a mix of horror and fantasy, the latter being set either in Lovecraft's Dreamlands setting or Lumley's own Primal Lands. So given the range of works and the span of years they cover, this a good representation of Lumley's output in terms of the Cthulhu Mythos.
The book gets its title, Haggopian And Other Stories', from its second story, which involves a character who's a combination of Aristotle Onassis with Jacques Cousteau. A rich and reclusive businessman with a passion for marine biology as well as beautiful women, Haggopian grants a journalist an interview. Needless to say, the story Haggopian wants to tell is both bizarre and horrific. 'Haggopian' is a cracking tale, reminiscent of the famous Lovecraft story 'Shadow Over Innsmouth', but with twists all its own.
Some stories are more overt counterparts to familiar mythos tales, including the excellent Dylath-Leen. This story concerns the fate of a city visited by Randolph Carter in Lovecraft's 'Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath'. In that story, Dylath-Leen is where the strange and sinister Moonbeasts arrive in their galleys to trade their rubies. The Moonbeasts abduct Carter but he manages to escape thanks to the timely intervention of an army of sentient cats, and when Carter returns, he warns the citizens of Dylath-Leen that their trade with the Moonbeasts will likely end badly for them. Lumley's story essentially picks up this thread, with a new traveller arriving in Dylath-Leen and finding the city governed by the Moonbeasts and their vile slaves, the Men of Leng.
Lumley is notable for creating characters and fictional worlds he uses again and again. 'Haggopian And Other Stories' includes several stories featuring Titus Crow, an occult investigator, essentially a private detective who tracks down cults and monsters rather than criminals. Crow has been featured in lots of stories besides the ones in this book, but the stories here are nice little samplers. 'Name And Number' for example has Crow using his skills to uncover and oppose a wealthy businessman bent on destroying the world.
Another of Lumley's creations is the world known as the Primal Lands, within which are set several of the stories in this collection. 'Curse Of The Golden Guardians' is the longest and perhaps the best of them and features the stoic barbarian Tarra Khash. In this story, the hero finds himself tricked into helping a tomb robber and needs to use both brains and brawn to evade both his captor and the evils within the tomb...
To be fair, the quality varies with some stories being creepier, weirder or simply better than others. But even at his worst, Lumley is a competent writer with a vivid imagination and part of the charm of this collection is that while set in or using the familiar Cthulhu Mythos, from his earliest days as a writer Lumley revealed a knack for originality and freshness that not all mythos writers have managed. In short, 'Haggopian And Other Stories' is a fun collection of entertaining stories and highly recommended.
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