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The Tindalos Cycle edited by Robert M. Price

01/03/2011. Contributed by Neale Monks

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pub: Hippocampus Press. 363 page paperback. Price $20.00 (US), GBP 11.52 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-98148-885-1.

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‘The Tindalos Cycle’ is a collection of more than two dozen short stories and poems is a celebration of the work of Frank Belknap Long and his most famous Cthulhu Mythos creations, the Hounds of Tindalos and the elephant-like entity known as Chaugnar Faugn. As is often the case with such volumes, the stories vary considerably, not least of all because some date from the end of the nineteenth century while others were written within the last ten years. To help link them altogether, editor Robert M. Price provides some quite extensive notes before each one, making their significance much more apparent than would otherwise be the case. With that said, this isn't an easy volume to read from cover to cover, and the single ‘Tindalos Cycle’ theme suggested on the back cover blurb is rather over-egging the pudding.

In any case, the collection starts off with two stories that substantially predate the 'The Hounds Of Tindalos', 'The Maker Of Moons' by Robert W. Chambers and 'The Death Of Halpin Frayser' by Ambrose Bierce. Both of these date from the 1890s, some thirty years before Long wrote 'The Hounds Of Tindalos'. Price argues that Long was familiar with both of these stories and that he very likely found them inspirational, carrying across into his own work elements of style employed by both Chambers and Bierce. Perhaps. Perhaps not. It's hard to say either way.

Long was, of course, a friend of H.P. Lovecraft, and the third story in this collection, 'The Space-Eaters', is one of the best-known stories to feature Lovecraft himself as one of its characters. Though a work of fiction, it's a clever and affectionate tale that's as much about HPL and his writings as it is about the unknown horrors that await those who probe the secrets of the universe too deeply.

The fourth story, 'The Hounds Of Tindalos', is the one from which the book gets its name. Unusually, among those Mythos creations created by authors other than Lovecraft, Long's Hounds have enjoyed a considerable literary life of their own. Much of that success must surely come down to the sheer originality of the Hounds rather than anything particularly exceptional about the story or the way it was written. But the Hounds really are a nifty creation and their need to materialise within acute angles gives an oddly mathematical spin to their clearly very alien biology.

There simply isn't space here to go through all the other stories and poems included in this collection. Suffice it to say they vary in quality and despite the name of the book, only about half of them have anything much to do with the Hounds. Whether that's a good or a bad thing depends on your perspective. It might be argued that a series of stories all about the Hounds eating up time travellers would have got a bit tedious after a while. So with stories like 'The Horror From The Hills' and 'When Chaugnar Wakes', we get Long's other notable creation, Chaugnar Faugn.

Really, what we have here is a mish-mash of Mythos and pseudo-Mythos tales more or less connected to one another by having either inspired Long, been written by Long or else written by someone who was inspired by Long. Price certainly knows his subject and his credentials as a scholar of the Cthulhu Mythos are beyond reproach. But the association of these tales within these covers just feels a bit forced and things are made worse by the far from even quality of the writing. Long just wasn't a consistently good writer and some of the stories by other authors in this collection are either overlong or simply not that interesting. With that said, some of the shorter stories, in particular 'Firebrands Of Torment' by Michael Cisco and 'Death Is An Elephant' by Robert Bloch are actually pretty good.

Bottom line: 'The Tindalos Cycle' falls into that category of books that is tough to recommend wholeheartedly. On the plus side, it does bring together a lot of stories that won't be familiar to many Cthulhu Mythos fans and for those interested in the Lovecraft's circle of writer friends, having some of Long's most important stories in one place is definitely useful. But on the debit side, there just isn't enough first-rate material here to make this book a must-have volume for fans of weird fiction.

Neale Monks

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