Crucial to the Lovecraft “canon” of “mythos tales” the novella At the Mountains of Madness is considered by Lovecraft scholars and fans alike to be the writer’s crowning achievement.
Written later in his life (and oddly rejected by the long-time editor at Weird Tales magazine, Lovecraft’s most loyal venue), At the Mountains of Madness has a maturity to it, a scientific expeditionary atmosphere, an epistolary-like narrative structure (over the “wireless” and often from an aeroplane), and a density of prose style that, while challenging to read in places compared to, for instance, lighter pieces such as “Herbert West – Reanimator” or “Pickman’s Model” (both quality tales), pulls the reader in quickly and keeps him or her there for the long, slow distance (Mountains is Lovecraft’s longest piece of fiction).
Hang in there for the ride, however, and you will come away from the experience more knowledgeable about Lovecraftian philosophy—the cosmic indifference and human angst and utter fear that fill its dread halls, floor to ceiling, seeps into its bones, and travels through the very joists and beams like lifeblood through veins and arteries.
In this novella, one of his best-written works, Lovecraft provided many of the links in the “Chthulhu mythos” or as some prefer to call it the “Lovecraft mythos” chain — many of which appear in so many diverse and various tales that, unless a reader were to devour the entire canon, at least twice (three times for good measure), it would be near impossible to find them all and link everything together satisfactorily. (And some of us Lovecraft geeks actually do just that.)
There are, of course, some contradictions in places…Lovecraft was not J.R.R. Tolkien…and even Tolkien had to go back in to Lord of the Rings more than once to fix a stray fact, a misplaced nomenclature, most often caught by an ardent reader. Lovecraft did not go back in and fix anything anywhere. He left hints in thousands of letters written to peers and publication editors. And then there are the essays and the stories.
Bring a good flashlight. And extra batteries.
It’s an adventure. And what you care to dig for is what you’ll get. Good old, Howard.
Primarily, in addition to it being an intellectual thrillride of a read (to which I return often), At the Mountains of Madness will open your eyes to Lovefraft’s “monsters”. These are his “winged things” from the stars; his “fungi from Yuggoth” (the frightening little brain stealers); his “Elder beings”; his mythical creations the “Old Ones” and the “Deep Ones”… and the proper names (Cthulhu, Nyrlathotep, Dagon) by which he called them; as well as the common categorical groups to which he assigned them (shoggoths, mi-go, lurkers, shamblers, abominations, horrors, worshippers of monstrosities).
It’s a long list. It’s a must read.
I will post the novella, itself, in its entirety, in a future post and link it to this post. But, for now, should you find yourself curious, reader, or should I call you “lurker”… here are a link to the novella; the official Wiki entry regarding it; and a site or two you may also want to peruse.
But I warn you…should you feel an icy, antarctic wind in your bones; should you hear a singularly odd and musical piping on said wind and soft wingbeats that you are quite certain are your imagination; should you, while searching carefully through dim and silent crevasses, remark to yourself or your buddy, as your beam of light pauses on some interesting triangular shapes pressed into the old, frozen snow of the cavern floor on which you walk: ‘funny, isn’t it, how these weird little triangular shapes seem to mimic footprints…left, right; left, right; left, right…”
Oh you didn’t bring along a buddy. I didn’t realize you were searching these cold, eldritch caves alone.
That’s brave of you, but, please, I must insist that you desist. You must end all searching at once. It’s much too—
What is that? Hello? Yes, but I insist. You dont understand. You couldnt possibly—
I can’t make out what you’re saying. I—
Can you repeat that, please?
Can you please repea———-
About the novella:
The Complete Text of the Novella (in the public domain):
‘At the Mountains of Madness is a novella by horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in February/March 1931 and rejected that year by Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright on the grounds of its length. It was originally serialized in the February, March, and April 1936 issues of Astounding Stories (below). It has been reproduced in numerous collections.
The story details the events of a disastrous expedition to the Antarctic continent in September 1930 and what was found there by a group of explorers led by the narrator, Dr. William Dyer of the fictional Miskatonic University. Throughout the story, Dyer details a series of previously untold events in the hope of deterring another group of explorers who wish to return to the continent.
The novella’s title is derived from a line in “The Hashish Man,” a short story by fantasy writer Edward Plunkett, Lord Dunsany: “And we came at last to those ivory hills that are named the Mountains of Madness….”
The story has inadvertently popularized the concept of ancient astronauts, as well as Antarctica’s place in the “ancient astronaut mythology”.’
(Sources: Wikipedia; deviantart.com)