(a review)
Stephen Mark Rainey

2nd Revised Edition
Edited by Edward P. Berglund
Chaosium, 1996
258 pp., $10.95
ISBN # 0-56882-054-2

Chaosium has recently reissued one of the better homages to H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, namely, The Disciples of Cthulhu, which was originally released by DAW Books in 1976, edited by Edward P. Berglund. While the new release contains a few significant changes from the original, the fact that the publisher is bringing the book to light at all seems consistent with their recently stated goal of producing more classic volumes of Lovecraftiana -- meaning more reprints, less new, original fiction. I tend to applaud this position, as the Cthulhu Mythos is best represented by a relatively select number of stories that boast unique flairs of their own while remaining true to the cosmic-based core ideas of HPL himself. This approach would certainly tend to favor a market of relatively new Mythos afficionados, since older, devoted readers of Lovecraftian fiction would almost certainly own or at least have read existing copies of the material in question. The packaging for Chaosium's fiction line has really improved since its earlier efforts, with a fine use of color photography and illustration on the covers, which may be their most important selling point to those newcomers to the genre.

According to editor Berglund's new preface, the Ramsey Campbell story, "The Tugging," and Brian Lumley's, "The Fairground Horror," both of which are held in high esteem by most Mythos readers, have been revised since their initial printings, though based on my memory of the originals, the changes are quite minor. Also, Lin Carter's "Zoth-Ommog" is not included in this edition, because editor Robert M. Price is going to be compiling a single-author collection of Carter's tales for Chaosium in the near future. One of Price's own works is presented in its stead, a story entitled "Dope War of the Black Tong" that reads like a Lin Carter tale, albeit with a more effective dark side than Carter usually presented; most of Carter's work, with a few exceptions, has struck me as pale pastiche, oftentimes bordering on the laughable.

Also dropped from this volume is Joseph Payne Brennan's "The Feaster from Afar," due to the inability of the editor and/or publisher to locate an executor of the Brennan literary estate. Berglund has wisely substituted for it A.A. Attanasio's "Glimpses," a beautifully written tale that takes certain traditional elements of the Mythos and blends them with some intriguingly warped metaphysics.

Among the various works in Disciples, I would most highly recommend Fritz Leiber's "The Terror from the Depths," an essential Mythos story that stands up as well as any of HPL's own masterpieces. And James Wade's "The Silence of Erika Zann" is a deliciously psychedelic piece of nostalgia that captures a slice of the later '60s/early '70s alternative music scene, one that comes across as rather charming given the sad state of its contemporary counterpart.

Other noteworthy stories in the book include Bob Van Laerhoven's "All-Eye," an atmospheric story of horror in the wilderness of the Great White North that works beautifully until its rather manic climax, which comes uncomfortably close to falling apart. Aside from being predictable, the character of the narrator is a bit too much to swallow. "Where Yidhra Walks" by Walter C. DeBill, Jr. makes for good cosmic fun as well, rising above its tired stranger-in-a-strange-land theme, reflecting some of the same elements of tension that worked so well for HPL in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth."

For the more recent inductees into the world of the post-HPL Cthulhu Mythos, The Disciples of Cthulhu from Chaosium is a spendid starter kit, much in the same manner as Arkham House's Cthulhu 2000 from last year. If you're a diehard collector, you'll probably want to add this attractive volume to your set as well. If you read Mythos tales for basic, short-term entertainment and have already gotten your fill from the original release of Disciples, you can probably take or leave this revised edition. Mind you, I have no qualms about recommending a refresher course for those who haven't dusted off the original release in recent memory.

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© 1997-2004 Edward P. Berglund
Review by Stephen Mark Rainey: © 1996 Dark Regions Press; reprinted from Horror Magazine, [1996] (# 7)

Created: June 13, 1997; Current Update: August 12, 2004