Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Review: The Strange Dark One by W.H. Pugmire

W.H. Pugmire is one of the finest modern authors of the Lovecraftian tale. He has been described as "prose-poet", and writes all manners of haunting tales, many of which are set in his fiction Sesqua Valley.

The Strange Dark One: Tales of Nyarlathotep is a collection of Pugmire's finest tales dealing with the dark god. Eight stories are collected in this slim volume (weighing in at 153 pages) and makes for a nice quick read. Readers of Lovecraft should be quite familiar with Nyarlathotep, as this dark god has appeared in more Lovecraft stories than any of his other creations. Nyarlathotep also stands apart from Lovecraft's other Old Ones in several ways. While most of the Old Ones (Cthulhu, Shub Niggurath, etc.) are unfathomable and seem mostly indifferent to humanity, Nyarlathotep doesn't seem to fit these rules. Ofttimes roaming the Earth in one of his various forms, many of which are human in appearance, Nyarlathotep acts as a messenger or a herald of the end times, and seems to take delight in cruelty and deception.

Several of the stories are interconnected, and all but one take place in Pugmire's Sesqua Valley, a mysterious, hidden valley of haunted secrets. With that being said, several Sesqua Valley characters recur throughout the stories. This gives the effect of each story being a smaller piece of the whole. The stories all serve to explore the interesting relationship between the Crawling Chaos Nyarlathotep, the inhabitants of the Valley, and certain outsiders who are allowed to enter.

Another theme that runs heavily throughout the novel is that of dreams and their power. Most of the stories involve dreaming rather significantly, and the dreaming seems to serve as a conduit between humans and Nyarlathotep. Pugmire paints him as a dark, seductive figure, that seems to draw people of artistic and occult bent.

The stories in the book are all great, and Pugmire's Valley and it's strange, mystical rules is very intriguing, along with the shadow-people who live there. The one story that does not take place in the Valley stands as one of the best ones in the book, and was recently included in The Book of Cthulhu II where it was a standout tale.

Overall this book showcases Pugmire's talents, and is another success for Miskatonic River Press. Any fans of Lovecraft should put Pugmire at the top of their to-read list, and The Strange Dark One could be a great place to start. As for myself, I look forward to diving into Pugmire's other Sesqua Valley tales.

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