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Friday, October 12, 2012

HPL Review: The Hound

This is a very short story about a couple of guys who are thrill seekers. It's similar to "Herbert West: Reanimator" in that our protagonist sort of paints himself as the willing accomplice following along on these insidious adventures instigated by the other guy.

Here's the synopsis: As I mentioned, these two guys have grown bored with life and even with the pursuits that exist on the fringe of society. Before long they realize in order to get excited about anything it must be dark, sinister or morbid activities. Eventually they resort to grave robbing for their adrenaline fix.

One day they get a line on this grave in Holland that is supposed to contain the body of a centuries-dead grave robber. He was purportedly buried with his last great prize, an amulet of some kind. They decide to target that grave next.

See, they consider themselves artists of a sort; they revel in the atmosphere of each plunder. And they see it as suitably poetic to rob the grave of a legendary grave robber.
They end up taking this gargoyle-looking amulet from the grave and hightailing it out of there, back to their elegantly and morbidly described museum of the disturbing known as their lair. That turns out to be a horrible mistake.

I really like this story. It's got some of the most unsettling stuff I've read in the descriptions of the loot they have in their hideout, (though I have discovered that one word I have in mine was a typo in the PDF translation**) and at the same time there are humorous passages that give a hint that Lovecraft penned this as kind of a parody. It's very reminiscent of Poe in certain parts, which is nothing new for Lovecraft, but this time it seems to be almost poking fun at not only Poe, but the whole Gothic horror genre in general.

There's this really cool bit of the story where Lovecraft shows that it's not supposed to be taken too seriously by doing this sort of "Rattling Bog" repetition about how the moon is full, the shadows are long, the trees are grotesque and drooping, there are huge bats flying around, there's a church steeple pointing like a finger into the sky, the fireflies are dancing, and there's a spectral howl of some sort of hound in the distance... He repeats that like three times nearly word for word during the story. I like that part. It's so graphically atmospheric, yet the way it's delivered is totally tongue-in-cheek.

"The Hound" is an easy, quick read that doesn't take itself too seriously. There's not much of a scare factor at the end, but definitely a worthwhile read. Highly recommended.

**I have to share this because it's kind of funny. When the protagonist describes the treasure trove the two villains have collected, at one point he says (in my ebook version), "Niches here and there contained... the flesh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children." Picturing that, I cringed. Wow, I said to myself after reading that. Not only the heads of small children, but they flayed off the flesh too. God, that's horrible.

Once I heard an audiobook version of the story, I realized that my copy was wrong. It should have been the "...fresh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children."
Ohhhh, I said to myself upon my new discovery. 'Fresh!' They were just cutting the heads off freshly buried children and taking them home as trophies; they didn't flay the flesh to keep as well. That's not quite so morbidly sinister. But honestly, in retrospect, is there truly any difference? LOL