RogerBW's Blog

The Private Life of Elder Things, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Adam Gauntlett and Keris McDonald 02 March 2020

2016 Lovecraftian fantasy/horror anthology by three authors.

"Donald" (Tchaikovsky): the old hand will quickly be able to work out what's going on here, but as with many of these stories the basic concept doesn't stop with "oh noes race-mixing" but carries on to look at some of the implications.

"Pitter Patter" (Gauntlett) has a unit of policemen keeping observation from an abandoned Territorial Army base. But not as abandoned as they might like.

"Special Needs Child" (McDonald) is barely Lovecraftian at all; it's a fairly effective horror piece, apart from doing a terrible job of addressing the protagonist's motivations, but doesn't really fit here.

"Irrational Numbers" (Tchaikovsky) deals with a mathematician, and one of the best accounts of mathematical discovery and disappointment that I've seen in fiction. That alone would make it worth reading, I think.

"New Build" (Gauntlett) shows an old city pub being converted into a new pub (obviously implausible, as these days it would be converted into overpriced poky flats instead) and what you can do in the moments between the pulling of the metaphorical tripwire and the explosion.

"The Branch Line Repairman" (Tchaikovsky) is a love story to the London Underground of the sort that I bet Ben Aaronovitch wishes he could write. Actual research meets politics meets the Elder Things. Superb.

"Devo Nodenti" (McDonald) is mostly in flashback, but looks at Nodens, archaeology, the Dreamlands, and the real price of power. Rather effective.

"Season of Sacrifice and Resurrection" (Tchaikovsky) is a museum story, surprisingly weak, perhaps because its protagonist is much more an observer then an actor in the narrative.

"Prospero and Caliban" (Gauntlett) is a phantasmagorical excursion into the Bermuda Triangle, let down slightly by its suddenly-mundane conclusion.

"Moving Targets" (Tchaikovsky) takes a Lovecraftian idea into modern politics, and then sets two luckless policemen to investigate. Works very well.

"The Play's the Thing" (McDonald) has a lovely impossible house, and makes sense out of what is said about a certain play.

Some of these stories explicitly re-use particular ideas and threats from Lovecraft, and the experienced reader can have fun saying "ah, right, that'll be Mi-Go/Deep Ones/etc. then". But they're good in themselves too, and I think that a reader unable to spot the references could also get a lot of enjoyment out of these.

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  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 05:44pm on 03 March 2020

    Looks interesting, I shall check it out; where that means as and when I next do a purchase from Amazon, and then transfer said book to the TBR pile, and read at some point in the future.

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