Audiobook Review: “Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft”
by H. P. Lovecraft
Read by Robertson Dean, Simon Vance, Sean Runnette, Elijah Alexander, Stefan Rudnicki, Bronson Pinchot, Simon Prebble, Tom Weiner, Malcolm Hillgartner, Patrick Cullen
Published by Blackstone Audio
Approx. 20 hours
I probably have to turn in my horror fiction fan card on this next statement, but, I’m on the fence when it comes to H.P. Lovecraft. While I do love the visual images created by his writings, there is one feature I just absolutely abhor. First though, I have to say the rhythm, choice of words and dark settings of his stories are enough to suck any horror fan into his nightmares. My problem is that most items of horror are usually described as either “indescribable” or “more than the human mind can describe.” I have always felt that any good writer can describe anything, so why does Lovecraft come up short of words on the darkest parts of the horrors in his stories? Is it because he knows the mind is capable of filling in the blanks? When I read these see these moments in a Lovecraft story, I groan because I wish he could have put more detail in that picture. But, then again, his is one of the writers that forged horror-fiction so all can be forgiven.
This volume collects, for the first time, the entire Dream Cycle created by H. P. Lovecraft. These stories. In many of these tales, Lovecraft leads the reader to believe that dreams are where truth actually lies as opposed to reality where it is often thought to be. He believes dreams are things “whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier.” And most of the characters herein try to tear down that barrier.
The use of different readers for each story in this audiobook collection keeps the book interesting and keeps the listener paying attention. Not any single reader is misplaced and all are able to keep the true feeling of Lovecraft in the darkest parts of the stories. Stefan Rudnicki is the one that stands out the most for me, his smooth deep voice just captivates and never lets go even long after the story is done.
This collection covers the Dream Cycle and is a bunch of short stories, unfinished stories, correspondence between Lovecraft and others and some general ideas jotted down for future use. I will try to summarize briefly all of the tales within, but your best bet is to listen to this great audio collection, especially if you are a Lovecraft fan already.
“Azathoth” – The modern world has been stripped of imagination and belief in magic. The protagonist is an unnamed man who lives in a dull and ugly city. Every night for many years the man gazes from his window upon the stars, until he comes over time to observe secret vistas unsuspected by normal humanity. One night the gulf between his world and the stars is bridged, and his mind ascends from his body out unto the boundless cosmos.
“The Descendant” – This story is a fragment that seems to really go nowhere but it it great to hear the story read aloud.
“The Thing in the Moonlight” – Based on a letter from H. P. Lovecraft to Donald Wandrei, dated November 24, 1927. this story describes a dream that Lovecraft had.
“Polaris” – The narrator becomes convinced that this life is not real but a dream from which he cannot awaken.
“Beyond the Wall of Sleep” – An inventor has created an electronic telepathic device in which he uses to go into the mind of a dying man. This one intrigued me most because the band “Black Sabbath” wrote a song based on this story.
“The Doom That Came to Sarnath” – Hate, genocide, and a deadly curse consume the land of Mnar.
“The Statement of Randolph Carter” – Carter attempts to describe the disappearance of his partner, Warren, into a crypt.
“The Cats of Ulthar” – In Ulthar, no man may kill a cat . . . and woe unto any who tries.
“Celephais” – Celephaïs was created in a dream by Kuranes as a child of the English landed gentry. As a man he dreams it again and then, seeking it, slowly slips away to the dream-world.
“From Beyond” – A scientist named Crawford Tillinghast. Tillinghast creates an electronic device that emits a resonance wave, which stimulates an affected person’s pineal gland, thereby allowing them to perceive planes of existence outside the scope of accepted reality.
“ Nyarlathotep” – A strange and inexplicable sense of foreboding experienced by humanity in general, in anticipation of a great unknown evil.
“The Nameless City” – Death lies beneath the shifting sands, in a story linking the Dream Cycle with the legendary Cthulhu Mythos.
“The Other Gods” – A high priest and prophet greatly learned in the lore of the “gods of earth”, or Great Ones, attempts to scale the mountain of Hatheg-Kla in order to look upon their faces, accompanied by his young disciple Atal. Upon reaching the peak, Barzai at first seems overjoyed until he finds that the “gods of the earth” are not there alone.
“Ex Oblivione” – The dreams of a presumably dying man. In his dreams, the man is walking through a valley and encounters a vine-covered wall with a locked bronze gate therein. He longs to know what lies beyond the gate.
“The Quest of Iranon” – a golden-haired youth who wanders into the city of Teloth, telling tales of the great city of Aira, where he was prince. While Iranon enjoys singing and telling his tales of wonder, few appreciate it.
“The Hound” – The narrator and his friend St. John, who have a deranged interest in robbing graves. They constantly defile crypts and often keep souvenirs of their nocturnal expeditions. Since they reside in the same house, they have the opportunity to set up a sort of morbid museum in their basement. Using the objects they collect from the various graves they have robbed, they organize the private exhibition. The collection consists of headstones, preserved bodies, skulls and several heads in different phases of decomposition. It also included statues, frightful paintings and a locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin (the Necronomicon).
“Hypnos” – The narrator, a sculptor, recounts meeting a mysterious man in a railway station. The moment the man opened his “immense, sunken and widely luminous eyes”, the narrator knew that the stranger would become his friend-–”the only friend of one who had never possessed a friend before”. In the eyes of the stranger he saw the knowledge of the mysteries he always sought to learn.
“What the Moon Brings” – The narrator wanders through his garden one night and in the moonlight sees strange and bizarre things.
“Pickman’s Model” – A Bostonian painter named Richard Upton Pickman who creates horrifying images. His works are brilliantly executed, but so graphic that they result in his membership in the Boston Art Club being revoked and himself shunned by his fellow artists.
“The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath” – The epic nightmare adventure with tendrils stretching throughout the entire Dream Cycle.
“The Silver Key” – Randolph Carter discovers, at the age of 30, that he has gradually “lost the key to the gate of dreams.” Randolph once believed life is made up of nothing but pictures in memory, whether they be from real life or dreams, and he highly prefers his romantic nightly dreams of fantastic places and beings, as an antidote for the “prosiness of life.”
“The Strange High House in the Mist” – Thomas Olney, a “philosopher” visiting the town of Kingsport, Massachusetts with his family, is intrigued by a strange house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. It is unaccountably high and old and the locals have a generations-long dread of the place which no one is known to have visited
“The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” – Charles Dexter Ward, who in 1918 becomes embroiled in the past, due to his fascination with the history of his wizard ancestor, Joseph Curwen (who had left Salem for Providence in 1692, and acquired notoriety for his haunting of graveyards, his apparent lack of aging, and his chemical experiments). Ward physically resembles Curwen, and attempts to duplicate his ancestor’s Qabalistic and alchemical feats, eventually locating Curwen’s remains and by means of his “essential Saltes”, resurrecting him.
“The Dreams in the Witch-House” – Walter Gilman, a student of mathematics and folklore at Miskatonic University, takes a room in the Witch House, a house in Arkham thought to be accursed.
“Through the Gates of the Silver Key” – At a gathering to decide the fate of Randolph Carter’s estate which has been held in trust since his disappearance the mysterious Swami Chandraputra, who wears curious mittens and enveloping robes, tells Carter’s acquaintances of his ultimate fate.
While some are only partial stories, they all come together to further the dark and foreboding universe that houses Randolph Carter, Miskatonic University, the Necronomicon and Cthulu.