by Various Authors, Brian M. Sammons, Glenn Owen Barrass (Ed.)
“That was the problem with being born; it was just asking for trouble.”
“Mysterious Ways” – C.J. Henderson
Consisting of 22 tales in the Cthulhu Mythos, World War Cthulhu attempts to chronicle the fight back against the unbeatable creatures from Lovecraft’s world. If you’ve read much of Lovecraft’s work you’ll be quite familiar with the human inadequacies saturating his tales, to the effect it’s nearly always pointless fighting back. You can run or you can die, which most of Lovecraft’s humans seem to realize. This collection concerns those who don’t realize, or who do but find themselves fighting anyway.
Not to say there’s no fear here, but instead of gibbering in terror in a corner until ripped apart these characters are gibbering in terror during a mission or during a firefight or other activity, until ripped apart. Not that this applies 100% of the time–there are a few victories here instead of just unanimous defeat, but they are fleeting and couched in the despair that is Lovecraft.
Most of these range from fair to excellent, and a couple come close to superb. The following were all excellent:
Opening with John Shirley’s “Loyalty,” the first tale is much like what you’d be expecting picking this up. Earth is invaded, and the only entity strong enough to repel the invaders is the mighty Cthulhu, who must first be summoned and enticed. Mr. Shirley truly embraced what the editors seem to be asking for here.
In William Meikle’s “Broadsword” an ultra-destructive weapon is deployed while the world is at war and an accompanying alien message is sent to the Allied command, “Stop this war or die.” Two Allies are sent into remote mountains to investigate the source of the destruction.
Josh Reynolds’ tale, “The Yoth Protocols” is about a couple of G-Men who investigate an underground cave where the local Old Ones have stopped responding to our communications. Over the course of the investigation the two run into Russian army troops underground and things head south.
“The Ithiliad” by Christine Morgan was the most surprising of the stories, detailing what really happened during the Trojan War.
Tim Curran’s “The Procyon Project” was fantastic, concerning a security guard suffering from post-traumatic stress who patrols a facility where strange, large scale experiments are taking place. He wonders what those scientists could possibly be doing with all that meat and blood, but since loose lips sink ships he internalizes his fear in true Lovecraft tradition. This was probably the strongest story in the collection.
It’s a solid effort from the editors, where not every tale brings the fight to the monsters. But this is a much more action oriented collection than Lovecraft himself produced. You may have been hoping for that moment where Man stood tall, but should feel satisfied in settling for not being consistently and completely crushed by the opposition.