The great thing about Lovecraft inspired works and Lovecraft fan fiction is that it isn’t by Lovecraft. Authors taking these long dropped reins do so focussing on the finer qualities of a man with a great imagination, a good sense of how to fabricate dread and a whole wack load of downside.
Taking the good bits and leaving behind the rest, this collection rides waves originally made about a century ago. Tentacle tickling, fleshy volume page-flipping and a sense of permanence often permeating in the sub-genre of horror and strange fiction.
There’s little chance of presenting a perfect collection, ever. Whispers from the Abyss 2 offers much more good than mediocre and in a few cases pretty awesome.
This collection starts by pitting the English language against itself in a social crusade, but this quickly steadily settles into a good groove, and upon reaching His Carnivorous Regard by John C. Foster, it begins to take off. The story is set in space with a backdrop of cosmic suggestions impending. A true sense of dread seeps in around the multi-layered characters and their reasonably human ways, demanding of an emotional response.
Orrin Grey’s tale follows and drags the theme into oddity with The Labyrinth of Sleep. Told with a particular focus on surroundings and scenery than the characters therein. The story invokes a strong sense of mystery and intrigue.
Bumping along as if settled onto a path, meeting dips and lulls, staggering now and then until Ferrett Steinmetz’ tale Shadow Transit claws at the heart and opens a wide wound to reveal a new terror that towers over all else. The desperation installed works perfectly and fear is palpable beyond the pages.
Humor shows its face a few times in this collection, perhaps to remind the reader that despite the universe crumbling, there might be worse things.
Michael Hudson, Chad Fifer and Samuel Poots all offer life in the middle-classes, homes invaded by dread. Endearing for different reasons, yet achieving similar outcomes, these authors carry the collection closer to a finish.
I Saw the Light by Greg Stolze drips horror, thick and consuming. It is dark from beginning to end and shows just how dark it can get. This story strangles dread until choking away all chances of hope in the future.
Closing in, Sarah Hans offers up a quiet mounting of torment in Shadows of the Darkest Jade. Trudging through rural communities, set on sending a lord’s message, monks learn, or relearn, that there other gods hanging out at the town pool, demanding offerings and praise of a grimmer fashion.
I’ve tried to like Lovecraft on a handful occasions, given his work more chances (and will likely give him more chances in the future) to prove itself worthy of the heaping praise it receives.
Characters are important to me, above all else. If I don’t care about the characters, why does it matter if the world falls around them? Lovecraft put his efforts elsewhere and, thusly, my eyes rove elsewhere. It's possible that my lacking mental Lovecraft database missed some of the fun. Nostalgia and familiarity are wonderful tools used to gather acceptance, something like a referral program in sales, a Lovecraft enthusiast will connect dots not apparent to me.
There are stories within this collection that show a mastery of dread and ooze suspense. Other pin hopelessness against the promise of more, mounting punishment and terror on an infinite path. Mostly, this collection is quite good and at moments, it proves great.