Posted on December 3, 2009 by Billzilla
Available at Amazon.com
Also available at DriveThruHorror.com
Written by Kenneth Hite
Published by Atomic Overmind Press
$8.95, 128 Pages
Have you repeatedly heard references to something called “Cthulhu” and wondered what it was all about? Are you already familiar with “the Big C,” know the signs and the secret handshakes, but are still looking for something to fill the great, gaping wound in your soul? Look no further, dear friends – Cthulhu 101 is good for what ails you!
Published by Atomic Overmind Press (www.atomicovermind.com), Cthulhu 101 is a witty overview of the Cthulhu Mythos, a world of pulp horror monsters from other dimensions and beyond the stars, created in the 1920’s and 30s by Howard Philips Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch and many others. It gleefully celebrates the tremendous influence of Lovecraft and the Mythos on modern-day consciousness. Atomic Overmind Press graciously provided me with a free copy for this review.
The first two chapters cover basic background on Cthulhu and H.P. Lovecraft, respectively. Next is a rundown of the Cthulhu Mythos, including many of the beasties most commonly occurring in fiction.
This section will be the most useful to those new to the Mythos. Lovecraft was extremely found of obscure adjectives – rugose and squamous both come to mind – and there is a section in this book — for those of us with more pedestrian vocabularies — specifically devoted to defining those more commonly utilized. Go ahead, look them up; I’ll wait.
After that, things get really interesting for those already familiar with rapid sanity loss. The next chapter covers appearances by the Big C in a wide variety of media. Hite cites examples of Cthulhu’s insidious influence; comics, films, music, television, games, and even toys. This is followed up by a series of useful lists recommending seven books to read to follow up on this new-found, sanity-blasting knowledge, a handy one-page guide helpful in determining which fiction collections would be a good fit for the reader, and finally, wrapping up with a list of ten interesting websites to check out for more information.
Despite years of an enthusiastic, personal interest in the Cthulhu Mythos, this reviewer learned a great deal from this book, especially about Cthulhu as referenced in comics and music. The book is missing a few things — for example, Skull Comics, published in the early 70s, contains a number of excellent treatments of Mythos-related short stories — but in all fairness, Cthulhu’s and Lovecraft’s influence on modern horror have been so profound and far-reaching in Western culture that it’s difficult to imagine anyone cataloging it all completely.
At 125 pages, Cthulhu 101 is a slim volume, but at only $8.95, it’s also packed with value. The compact nature of Cthulhu 101 makes it easy to carry around for those late-night sojourns into the realm of the macrbre. One small quibble: in several places, the first line of text in a paragraph appears to have no spaces between words (pages 86 and 91, for instance) made more obvious by the normally-spaced line beneath it. Probably this is a layout issue related to packing lots of stuff in a limited amount of space; it’s hardly a major problem, but I found it distracting. Still, it wasn’t distracting enough to prevent me from reading the entire book twice. In one day.
Hite’s acidic wit is on full display in Cthulhu 101; his sarcastic humor and pop-culture references on everything under the sun (and on some things that would be best to not see the light of day) drew laugh-out-loud reactions from this reviewer. It’s clear from the start that Hite takes great joy in his subject, a joy that is both unholy and infectious. Couple all that with the cartoony art style of the book’s illustrator, Drew Pocza, top it off with a foreword by John Kovalic, and you have a handbook to understanding Cthulhu that no self-respecting dilettante would be driven mad without.
Review by Bill Bodden