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At the end of his voyage, Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket reaches a strange land on the edge of the Antarctic, where people have black skin, red teeth, and where water flows thickly and shows multicoloured veins running through Shortly after, as Pym penetrates farther south into a chasm of increasingly warm water, a gigantic white figure appears before him The story ends abruptly at this point In At the Mountain of Madness, a scientific expedition ventures into the mountain ranges of the Antarctic and discovers, with utter astonishment and horror, the vestiges of a civilisation that inhabited our planet many million years before the dawn of man.Lovecraft like Jules Verne in Le Sphinx des glaces seems to have fancied taking the ending of Edgar Poe s novel as a starting point for his own It is also possible that Lovecraft took some inspiration from real polar expeditions accounts, such as Robert Scott s The Worst Journey in the World, Douglas Mawson s adventures later told in Mawson s Will , or the misfortunes of the USS Jeanette recently retold in In the Kingdom of Ice Be it as it may, Lovecraft has indeed managed to create a story that is one of his best as uncanny and haunting as that of Poe, and at the same time, in line with his own imaginary world.Written just fifty years after the death of Charles Darwin and a couple after that of Alfred Wegener, I guess this story is the most hellish nightmare a creationist or anthropocentrist could think of not only is the Earth very old, but the coming of man follows a cosmogony that is the polar opposite of the Book of Genesis In fact and this is perhaps the most compelling aspect of this novel Lovecraft seems to be gathering together, in an ever consistent manner, the different bits of mythology he had dropped in previous stories the Necronomicon, the Cthulhu, the city of R lyeh, Yog Sothoth, the Elder Things, the Mi go, the shoggoths, the cyclopean and non Euclidean relics of prehistoric buildings, etc see in particular chap 7 8 J R R Tolkien attempted another major endeavour of the same nature at around the same time, when working on the stories that would become, after his death, The Silmarillion.Lovecraft s prose also has a distinctive flavour, very obvious in this novel The interlarding of real and imaginary pieces of information The documentary, dry, almost detached yet vivid tone of voice, written in first person as in a notebook or a diary, filled with descriptions and stripped of any dialogue The skilful use of sensory cues, especially the panoramas of sublime nature cf Nicholas Roerich and nauseating architecture cf M C Escher , and the increasingly unbearable stench as the exploration progresses Also, finally, the ever increasing anticipation and hesitancy facing a revelation that is both terrifying and unfathomable.I hear Dan Simmons recent The Terror, now adapted into a AMC show, may have some hints of Lovecraft s story In any event, the influence of At the Mountain of Madness on Jeff VanderMeer s Southern Reach Trilogy and Ridley Scott s Prometheus are all too evident. A TRAGIC HOMECOMINGAnd so we slept for a million millennia, on the edge of our great city So close and yet so far Why were we outside of our fair city, our families and companions mere steps away The reasons are lost in time And as we slumbered, our tropical paradise became a land of neverending winter, a polar graveyard We were woken, those of us who still lived Four lived and four were lost We woke in confusion and terror, our tropic city gone, the snow and wind howling around us Strange bipedal things cried out and lay their hands upon us, intent on experimentation, their four legged companions barking and savage we slew them all in our panic Odd creatures, these bipedal explorers Were they the new masters of this world Were they our peers We, the Elder Race, have few of those We took some of their equipment, and a body each of the bipeds and their companions for further study We buried our dead and then made haste back to our city, to see what changes a million millennia had wrought After our leave taking, new explorers arrived They discovered our city We returned to our home It had became an empty palace of the dead Where were our fellows Where were our servants, the creatures we called Shoggoths Only our loyal companions remained in this terrible empty city They squawked their excitement at our return A million millennia is a long time But they could tell us nothing of what had become of our world And as we explored our ruins, so the new explorers explored as well Overcome with despair, we journeyed to a refuge that had been built by our kind, a city constructed within a subterranean sea We followed our tunnels down And there we found not our sought for homecoming but another necropolis And so we found our doom Shoggoths Traitorous servants As they had risen up against our kind in ages past, they had rebelled again but this time they had won They had destroyed our undersea refuge and all of our kind And as we gazed upon our shattered city within the dark waters beneath the earth, the Shoggoths rose once and slew the last of us Twas indeed a tragic homecoming We that remained of the Elder Race, lost out of time, born again into a world so strange, and then so quickly slain.The biped explorers had their own meeting with our rebel servants The meeting did not go well And yet, unlike us, they managed to escape the Shoggoths, and fled our city In their flight, did they pass near that fearsome land next to ours, beyond our mountains Ancient Kadath A place out of time, home to the Old Ones Terrible Kadath We had lived in Kadath s shadow, in the shadow of those old slumbering gods, so long ago What did the explorers glimpse in their flight near Kadath Were we not the only beings the explorers had woken Long Acknowledged As A Master Of Nightmarish Vision, HP Lovecraft Established The Genuineness And Dignity Of His Own Pioneering Fiction In With His Quintessential Work Of Supernatural Horror, At The Mountains Of Madness The Deliberately Told And Increasingly Chilling Recollection Of An Antarctic Expedition S Uncanny Discoveries And Their Encounter With An Untold Menace In The Ruins Of A Lost Civilization Is A Milestone Of Macabre Literature I really wanted to like this because H.P Lovecraft is likable as a person and I know he s so influential in horror but I couldn t do it The story is well written and original but the writing style was so dry and boring because it s a scientist recording their expedition that I had to drag myself through it There was just so much detail about things that weren t interesting when all I wanted to know about was the horrible shit that was happening to them. Hi, I m Rob Lowe and I just read Mountains of Madness by H.P Lovecraft.And I m Super Creepy Rob Lowe and I watch professional wrestling.RL This was another classic by horror and fantasy writer HP Lovecraft and displayed his virtuosity of the language as an art probably better than his shorter works SCRL Reading is hard on my eyes, I like checking out the babes in the audience with my big screen TV.RL This also highlights the depth and breadth of Lovecraft s imagination and the detail to which he is capable Like so many of his other works, the influence on later works, up to the modern, is unmistakeable SCRL I like that the wrestlers are so sweaty.RL I see resonance of this work in many later writings, especially mention of the cosmic Old Ones, as well as clear vestiges of his influence in The Thing, Aliens, Predator and of course, Alien vs Predator as well as countless other media.SCRL and I like that Sigourney Weaver was in those fliks.RL Don t be like this me, read Mountains of Madness for yourself and enjoy. I used to defend Lovecraft s reputation, arguing that he d suffered the same fate as fellow pulp author Howard that later writers, hoping to profit off of his name, put it on the cover of all sorts of middling short story collections cliche and badly written stuff that if the reader is lucky might actually contain one or two stories by the original author.However, in this tale, Lovecraft proves that he can write just as badly as his gaggle of followers It is meant to be a story of the fantastical, of the supernatural, of mystery and suspense yet it is full of the very things that kill off any sense of wonder or the uncanny Nothing demysticizes like familiarity, and this book is full of precise descriptions of his monstrous creatures, their histories, their habits Lovecraft even spends a few paragraphs telling us how they like to furnish and decorate their living rooms A tip for writers of the supernatural if you want a being to be mysterious and unsettling, don t go off on a tangent about its commitment to feng shui.In the Annotated Lovecraft, where I most recently read this story, noted critic S.T Joshi claims that Lovecraft wasn t a pulp author, but something else, something greater yet this story, one of Lovecraft s most well known, is rife with all the worst habits of the pulps pointless details, repetitive descriptions, crutch words, extensive exposition, little change in tone or voice, convenient plotting, and impossibly insightful protagonists Beyond that, Lovecraft doesn t even deliver on those things that make pulps worth reading in the first place verve, action, dynamic characters, and tension.The whole story is basically a scientist explaining to the reader a series of carvings that he s looking at The actual plot the fact that he and his team of researchers are trapped in Antarctica and think that something is killing them off is treated as a secondary concern.The thin story is padded out by interminable details, the same comments and observations, repeated over and over, page after page Like a bad game of Dungeons and Dragons, every new room is needlessly described they entered a spheroid oblong, 63 yards long and 41 yards wide, the walls were worked stone, covered in carvings depicting some tentacled creature.There are always carvings.As we go along, the protagonist describes it all to us minutely, with a level of insight that grows increasingly laughable At one point, he mentions that he can somehow tell, by a series of ancient stone etched pictures left by an alien race, that they had lost the skill of telepathy and switched to spoken communication In the real world, archaeologists struggle their entire careers to figure out what particular people, places, events, and objects are being represented in surviving remnants of murals, but our plucky narrator doesn t suffer a moment s confusion on how aliens artistically rendered telepathic powers some hundred million years ago.Indeed, the entire expedition seems to have a level of knowledge and familiarity with eldritch tomes and esoteric history that is quite impressive Keep in mind that these aren t paranormal researchers, but regular geologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, c and yet, every time they enter a new room, they never fail to comment that this or that carving reminds them of something they once read in the Necronomicon They throw off references to the mi go and the shaggoth as if discussing nothing so remarkable as varieties of sparrow, and recall in detail historical events of a hundred million years ago with the utmost nonchalance.Apparently, far from being an incomprehensible mystery the mere overhearing of which accursed syllables invokes incurable madness, the History of Cthonic Horrors is in fact a basic undergrad class required at all proper universities and Marty s favorite topic when he s trying to impress drunk girls at the Young Scientists mixer.Now, perhaps the fact that the narrator never fails to halt his headlong flight from horrid monsters in order to examine and explain the carvings is meant to represent the fellow s meticulous character which brings up an important writing lesson once a fact has been established in the text, it does not need to be reiterated ad nauseam You don t have to mention the character s clothes and sword in every scene, because once those things have been described, the reader isn t going to assume the character is suddenly naked and defenseless just because the scene changed Having the character demonstrate this trait once or twice in a story is perfectly effective, without wasting a lot of space reiterating.Reading this plodding list of details reminded me of nothing so much as discussing writing with a teenage would be fantasy author ask about his book, and he ll spend forty minutes telling you what color swords the southern nation has, how many priest kings ruled in succession over the Lost Isles, what city states exported the most grain in the decades since the mana plague, and the convoluted rules he s put together for how a fire spell works.In short, by the end, he hasn t mentioned anything that resembles a story no sense of character, psychology, pacing, tone, plotting, structure, theme, climax, pivotal scenes, conflict, tension, style, language, dialogue never forget that, when it comes to a good story, setting is irrelevant Get together some costumes and props, build a set, arrange the furniture, get your lighting perfect, and guess what you still don t have a play.Yet you can perform Shakespeare in a blank room, all the actors dressed in nondescript black, and you ll still get a great story, great characters and emotions and moments Change the setting to a space station, an elf kingdom, a Wild West boomtown, a port full of pirates, and it doesn t matter the story is still the thing that carries it.It s frustrating to watch an author just obsess over details, because overall, it s something they do to please themselves, not their audience It s like a set dresser carefully filling all the drawers on set with realistic, accurate props that will never be used in the play, never seen by the audience At some point, it s just a self indulgent game.However, that doesn t mean I don t understand the appeal of this story indeed, it has consistently been popular, republished over and over throughout the years as a Lovecraft classic It s chock full of exposition and explanation, and there are few things that fandom likes To have Lovecraft s world, his mysteries, his horrors laid out so simply, so fully, makes them easy to understand, easy to tie together and easy to obsess over That collection of little details, of the inner workings of a fictional world is what much of fandom is built on It is less a story and a Star Wars technical guide.A proper mystery, a story of true terror and fantasy doesn t give out simple explanations, because that would undermine the very sense of unease, of the supernatural on which such a story is based Mystery and explanation are antithetical to one another once the mystery has been explained, then the mystery has ended.Yet, there are many readers who come away from a fantastical story asking what really happened which, of course, is the wrong question, because what really happened was that an author sat down and created a piece of fiction from his imagination There is no reality outside of the story, the story exists to be a good story, to have feeling, pacing, and structure that works A story does not actually exist in any concrete world out there to be discovered and enumerated.The error Lovecraft makes here the same error Mike Mignola made with Hellboy recently was taking a strange and fantastical world and trying to lock it down , to make it into something explicable, predictable, fundamentally known Some might suggest that this urge opens up that world to other authors, by allowing them to know what really happened , but in truth, it closes off the world, it limits fundamentally what that world can be, and what stories can take place within it not only for other prospective authors, but also for readers.It shrinks the whole thing down and makes it easily digestible which is diametrically opposed to the supposed theme of Lovecraft s stories that there are things, both objects and ideas that are larger than we are, that are too grand for us to ever truly understand, things that cannot be simply encapsulated through a straightforward summary of events This story, than any other, is a betrayal of the very thing that is supposed to set Lovecraft s work apart, making it interesting and influential in the first place.Instead, we get something along the lines of true tales of Atlantis and the Hollow Earth that charlatans were peddling at the time, and which have since transformed into shows about Ancient Aliens on the History Channel Perhaps that s the true legacy of Lovecraft s work uncredentialed wackos spouting paranoid alien conspiracies well, that and cute Cthulhu plushies. This long novella perhaps longer than it should be succeeds in large part because no doubt due to Lovecraft s enthusiasm for the Antarctic explorers its scenery is evocative, its descriptions etxraordinarily vivid At the Mountains of Madness has its literary fathers Poe s A Gordon Pym, M.P Sheil s The Purple Cloud but H.P s principal sources were the contemporaneous accounts of the expeditions themselves Byrd s was of course his immediate inspiration Byrd returned in 1930, At the Mountains of Madness was written in 1931 , but Lovecraft had also followed not only Amundsen s and the unfortunate Scott s undertakings 1912 when he was a very young man but also Borchegrevink s Southern Cross Expedition 1902 when he was still a boy Lovecraft took pains to get the details right, and it shows.The perfectly realized polar setting, though, is only part of it The detailed treatment of the underground cyclopean city is very good too, but H.P had done this sort of thing before, and done it well almost as good as here No, it is the scientifically precise description of the bodies of The Elder Things that first throws fear into the reader s heart What follows is a transcription of the wireless transmissions made by Lake, a professor of biology at Miskatonic University10 15 P.M Important discovery Orrendorf and Watkins, working underground at 9 45 with light, found monstrous barrel shaped fossil of wholly unknown nature probably vegetable unless overgrown specimen of unknown marine radiata Tissue evidently preserved by mineral salts Tough as leather, but astonishing flexibility retained in places Marks of broken off parts at ends and around sides Six feet end to end, 3.5 feet central diameter, tapering to 1 foot at each end Like a barrel with five bulging ridges in place of staves Lateral breakages, as of thinnish stalks, are at equator in middle of these ridges In furrows between ridges are curious growths Combs or wings that fold up and spread out like fans All greatly damaged but one, which gives almost seven foot wing spread Arrangement reminds one of certain monsters of primal myth, especially fabled Elder Things in Necronomicon These wings seem to be membraneous, stretched on framework of glandular tubing Apparent minute orifices in frame tubing at wing tips Ends of body shrivelled, giving no clue to interior or to what has been broken off there Must dissect when we get back to camp Can t decide whether vegetable or animal Many features obviously of almost incredible primitiveness Having trouble with dogs They can t endure the new specimen, and would probably tear it to pieces if we didn t keep it at a distance from themI ll stop here, because I don t want to spoil things for you Things get weirder with Lake s account of the dissection, and even weirder when soon after his regular transmissions disappear into radio silence It is then that the narrator, geology professor William Dyer, accompanied by graduate student Danforth, go in search of the advance expedition What they find are the ruins of an alien civilization, a tale of cultural degeneracy outlined in bas relief, an explanation for the disappearance of Lake and his men, and a final intolerable horror.I don t want to give the best away, but I think I can say this much the ending of At the Mountain of Madness is particularly good because 1 the Elder Things you view with horror at first later become sympathetic as you realize the greater horror they themeselves face, and 2 the tale of Elder Things and their sad fate is filled with bizarre echoes of American Slavery in a way that at least for me both affirms Lovecraft s racism and redeems it.All things considered, it is one of Lovecraft s best But its publication history was not a happy one Weird Tales refused it because it was too long, and, although it was eventually published in Astounding Stories Feb., March, April 1936 , Astounding editor F Orlin Tremaine chopped up H.P s paragraphs, changed his punctuation, and cut out a thousand words toward the end Lovecraft very pissed, railed against Tremaine, that god damn d dung of a hyaena. never before has such an exciting story been told in such a dull way. . 6.0 stars As I was experiencing Lovecraft s supremely awesome, nightmarish masterpiece, At the Mountains of Madness ATMOM , it really struck me for the first time that he was a tremendously literate writer I have been a fan of Lovecraft for a long time and have always been gaga for his bizarre imaginative stories However, what jumped out at me on this reading of ATMOM was how impressively Lovecraft enhances the sense of dread that hangs over his stories through the colorful, melodramatic language he employs He had a real gift for the written word To demonstrate HPL s expertise with dramtic language, I have put together a few examples of quotes from ATMOM along with a straight forward, less colorful approach that a lesser non awesome writer NAW might employ EXAMPLE 1NAW Finally, we arrived at the South Pole HPL At last we were truly entering the white, aeon dead world of the ultimate south EXAMPLE 2NAW The sunlight reflecting off the ice created some unusual visual effects HPL Distant mountains floated in the sky like enchanted cities, and often the whole white world would dissolve into a gold, silver and scarlet land of Dunsanian dreams and adventurous expectancy under the magic of the low midnight sun EXAMPLE 3NAW The mountain range had an eerie appearance HPL It was as if these stark, nightmare spires marked the pylons of a frightful gateway into forbidden spheres of dream, and complex gulfs of remote time, space, and ultra dimensionality I could not help feeling that they were evil things mountains of madness whose farther slopes looked out over some accursed ultimate abyss That seething, half luminous cloud background held ineffable suggestions of a vague, ethereal beyondness far than terrestrially spatial, and gave appalling reminders of the utter remoteness, separateness, desolation, and aeon long death of this untrodden and unfathomed austral world EXAMPLE 4NAW The structures were of an extremely odd nature HPL There were geometrical forms for which Euclid could scarcely find a name cones of all degrees of irregularity and truncation terraces of every sort of provocative disproportion shafts with odd bulbous enlargements broken columns in curious groups and five pointed or five ridged arrangements of mad grotesqueness What can we learn from the above My takeaway is that Lovecraft was than just a freakishly twisted genius creator of the superbly bizarre He was also the king of melodrama who had literary chops to spare and could create atmosphere out of whole cloth even while describing the most mundane of activities Put simply, HP Lovecraft was the MAN It is also my opinion that the MAN was at his absolute best in ATMOM I must admit that I say this with some hesitation because I have had a deep and long lasting love affair with both The Call of Cthulhu and The Dunwich Horror However, despite an epic battle between story titans, I think that ATMOM wins a narrow victory because of its length and its detailed and comprehensive discussion of the Cthulhu Mythos which I thought was superb PLOT SUMMARY AND THOUGHTS ATMOM is the story of a doomed scientific expedition to Antarctica told in the first person by William Dyer, a geologist from Lovecraft s famous Miskatonic University Dyer explains at the very beginning of the novella that his reason for putting this story to paper is in the hope that that by recounting his extraordinary experiences, he can dissuade any further exploration of the region He also recognizes the likelihood that the fantastic elements of his story will not be acceptedDoubt of the real facts, as I must reveal them, is inevitable yet if I suppressed what will seem extravagant and incredible there would be nothing left. The main expedition group which does not include our narrator begins exploration of the surrounding area They eventually discover 14 specimens of a previously unknown species of life having both plant and animal qualities that appear to be close to 50 Million years old The discovery calls into question all of the current scientific theories regarding the history of life on Earth Despite their age, 8 of the 14 specimens appear to be in almost pristine condition One of the group members provides the following description of these Elder ThingsSix feet end to end, three and five tenths feet central diameter, tapering to one foot at each end Like a barrel with five bulging ridges in place of staves Lateral breakages, as of thinnish stalks, are at equator in middle of these ridges In furrows between ridges are curious growths combs or wings that fold up and spread out like fans which gives almost a seven foot wing spread Arrangement reminds one of certain monsters of primal myth, especially fabled Elder Things in the Necronomicon. When Dyer and the remaining members of the party suddenly lose contact with the expedition, they fly to the camp to investigate and what they find is I am going to stop there so as not to give away any major spoilers Let me just say that what Dyer and Danforth another group member find at the camp and what they encounter during their subsequent investigations are the stuff of glorious, wonderful and terrifying nightmares as only HP can write them In addition, a portion of the remaining story is a wonderfully detailed back story of many central aspects of Lovecraft s universe It has been said that ATMOM was Lovecraft s way of re categorizing the Cthulhu mythology from his earlier stories into something with of a science fiction flavor Mythology, fantasy or science fiction, whatever flavor you want to call it, it is scrumptiously DELICIOUS Finally, ATMOM ties together many of Lovecraft s earlier stories, includingThe Dunwich Horror, The Call of Cthulhu, The Colour Out of Space, Haunter in the Dark, The Thing on the Doorstep, Pickman s Model, and The Shadow over InnsmouthLong time readers of Lovecraft will have fun spotting the references and connections to these stories To sum up, this is an extraordinary story and is now on my list of All Time Favorites While HPL has written so many wonderful stories that it is hard to call any one his masterpiece However, if you had to select just one story to embody the greatness of Lovecraft s work, you could do worse than picking this novella HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION P.S Here is a bonus quote and accompanying photo that I did not have a good place to include it in the body of the review EnjoyIt was the utter, objective embodiment of the fantastic novelist s thing that should not be and its nearest comprehensible analogue is a vast, onrushing subway train as one sees it from a station platform the great black front looming colossally out of infinite subterraneous distance, constellated with strangely coloured lights and filling the prodigious burrow as a piston fills a cylinder