Lovecraft was very prolific in the short-story department. In this 180-page volume we have eleven of them, plus a novella. Some I found tiresome reading, others predictable, and a few quite enjoyable.
The stories usually revolve around rational men being confronted by hideous and terrifying sights that should exist only in nightmares. Lovecraft’s grasp of the grotesque is certainly very vivid, but I found his writing lacking on an inter-personal level. Also, the horror in Lovecraft’s fiction is somewhat narrow – usually restricted to the monster-in-the-closet variety. I can see how this might appeal to children or those of a superstitious bent, but it doesn’t do much for me personally.
My favourite story in the volume was, “The Temple” – a tale about a German U-boat captain losing control of his submarine and floating off into uncharted deep sea. Both the atmosphere and the state of mind of the captain were vividly described, and it was a fascinating journey into the unknown.
The inclusion of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” is also notable. One of Lovecraft’s larger works, it occupies over a third of the book’s length, and tells the story of a man passing through a grimy, dilapidated town called Innsmouth, pausing a while to investigate some of the strange legends about the town. Although this novella takes an absolute age to get past first gear, it has a pretty hair-raising climax that is worth the wait.
Here’s the table of contents: “The Lurking Fear,” “Dagon,” “Beyond the Wall of Sleep,” “The White Ship,” “Arthur Jermyn,” “From Beyond,” “The Temple,” “The Moon-Bog,” “The Hound,” “The Unnamable,” “The Outsider,” “The Shadow over Innsmouth.”