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Black Wings of Cthulhu 2: Eighteen Tales of Lovecraftian Horror

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This second instalment of S. T. Joshi’s critically acclaimed Black Wings series contains eighteen stories by leading contemporary writers, all drawing upon themes, images, and ideas from the life and work of H. P. Lovecraft. Caitlín R. Kiernan has written a poetic reinterpretation of “The Hound,” while Nicholas Royle plays a fascinating riff on the existential horror of “T This second instalment of S. T. Joshi’s critically acclaimed Black Wings series contains eighteen stories by leading contemporary writers, all drawing upon themes, images, and ideas from the life and work of H. P. Lovecraft. Caitlín R. Kiernan has written a poetic reinterpretation of “The Hound,” while Nicholas Royle plays a fascinating riff on the existential horror of “The Outsider.” Three separate tales, by Jason C. Eckhardt, Brian Evenson, and Jonathan Thomas, ring changes on Lovecraft’s seminal story, “The Call of Cthulhu.” Nick Mamatas writes an ingenious elaboration of “The Whisperer in Darkness.” The cosmic indifferentism that is the core of Lovecraft’s fiction is treated in various ways by John Langan, Melanie Tem, Tom Fletcher, Darrell Schweitzer, and Richard Gavin. The archaeological horror that we find in some of Lovecraft’s most powerful tales is revivified by Donald Tyson, while Lovecraft’s media presence is made the subject of half-comic, half-horrific tales by Don Webb and Chet Williamson. John Shirley, Rick Dakan, and Jason V Brock use Lovecraft’s life and outlook as springboards for imaginative tales of psychological and supernatural horror. All in all, Black Wings II affords a rich feast of terror inspired by the twentieth century’s greatest writer of the supernatural.


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This second instalment of S. T. Joshi’s critically acclaimed Black Wings series contains eighteen stories by leading contemporary writers, all drawing upon themes, images, and ideas from the life and work of H. P. Lovecraft. Caitlín R. Kiernan has written a poetic reinterpretation of “The Hound,” while Nicholas Royle plays a fascinating riff on the existential horror of “T This second instalment of S. T. Joshi’s critically acclaimed Black Wings series contains eighteen stories by leading contemporary writers, all drawing upon themes, images, and ideas from the life and work of H. P. Lovecraft. Caitlín R. Kiernan has written a poetic reinterpretation of “The Hound,” while Nicholas Royle plays a fascinating riff on the existential horror of “The Outsider.” Three separate tales, by Jason C. Eckhardt, Brian Evenson, and Jonathan Thomas, ring changes on Lovecraft’s seminal story, “The Call of Cthulhu.” Nick Mamatas writes an ingenious elaboration of “The Whisperer in Darkness.” The cosmic indifferentism that is the core of Lovecraft’s fiction is treated in various ways by John Langan, Melanie Tem, Tom Fletcher, Darrell Schweitzer, and Richard Gavin. The archaeological horror that we find in some of Lovecraft’s most powerful tales is revivified by Donald Tyson, while Lovecraft’s media presence is made the subject of half-comic, half-horrific tales by Don Webb and Chet Williamson. John Shirley, Rick Dakan, and Jason V Brock use Lovecraft’s life and outlook as springboards for imaginative tales of psychological and supernatural horror. All in all, Black Wings II affords a rich feast of terror inspired by the twentieth century’s greatest writer of the supernatural.

30 review for Black Wings of Cthulhu 2: Eighteen Tales of Lovecraftian Horror

  1. 5 out of 5

    Randolph

    I could only give it three stars. Too many weak stories to offset the good and mediocre. It becomes difficult for authors once confined to a sub-genre to really excel. There are just too many Cthulhu books out now, it's almost like zombie fare, there just cannot be that many good stories in a sub-genre like this. I'll stick to Laird barron and Caitlin Kiernan. My favorite was actually the Jason Brock story.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ian Casey

    Embryonic Lovecraft geek that I am, it was high time I tried one of the billion or so Cthulhu anthologies on the market and Black Wings of Cthulhu 2 happened to be the first to hand. Here we have eighteen authors with as many stories and as many radically varied interpretations of what it means to be ‘Lovecraftian’. The commonality here is certainly thematic rather than stylistic. Some take it quite literally by openly discussing the author – to the extent that two stories feature characters chan Embryonic Lovecraft geek that I am, it was high time I tried one of the billion or so Cthulhu anthologies on the market and Black Wings of Cthulhu 2 happened to be the first to hand. Here we have eighteen authors with as many stories and as many radically varied interpretations of what it means to be ‘Lovecraftian’. The commonality here is certainly thematic rather than stylistic. Some take it quite literally by openly discussing the author – to the extent that two stories feature characters channelling the spirit of the man himself. Meanwhile, ‘Casting Call’ by Don Webb claws gleefully at the fourth wall in its tale of an actor auditioning for a role in a 1972 television adaptation of Lovecraft’s ‘Pickman’s Model’. An adaptation, incidentally, which really happened. Suffice it say that one gets a little ‘meta’ in the modern parlance. Then there are the more ‘in-universe’ takes. ‘Houndwife’ by Caitlin R. Kiernan is a direct sequel to Lovecraft’s ‘The Hound’ and disconcerts the reader by frequently jumping between numerous points in the timeline. Unfortunately the story underlying the experiment in narrative flow didn’t elicit more than a figurative shrug. Cthulhu itself only comes close to appearing in two tales. ‘The Wilcox Reminder’ by Brian Evenson is an exploration of the madness induced by a statue of Big C and one of the more traditional weird fiction tales here. ‘And the Sea Gave Up the Dead’ by Jason C. Eckhardt comes closest of all the stories to the style of Lovecraft himself, being a retelling of a voyage of Captain Cook via some mysteriously re-discovered journals. As a more-or-less prequel to The Call of Cthulhu it is excellently realised. Some stories fell rather flat as I felt they were trying a little too hard with the tentacle monsters and people driven to sudden violence and the like, even if they had some clever ideas whilst doing so. ‘Bloom’ by John Lagan for example was a competent but clichéd take on the ‘discovery of mysterious object brings gradually impinging doom’ style of horror. ‘The Skinless Face’ by Donald Tyson had a fascinating Michael Crichton-meets-Robert E. Howard setup that felt too rapidly discarded in favour of over-the-top horror. Indeed, the stories also varied wildly as to their place on the spectrum of subtlety. ‘The Clockwork King, the Queen of Glass, and the Man with the Hundred Knives’ by Darrell Schweitzer went through an exceedingly bizarre looking glass with its themes of multiverses colliding and an even darker take on a Lewis Carroll-esque fantasy world. The openly unreliable narrator sold it perfectly though. On the other hand you had ‘Dahlias’ by Melanie Tem, a story so subtle I feel it will take a re-read or two to comprehend what was supposed to have happened. Indeed, my favourite story of all in this collection was among the shortest and subtlest. ‘The Other Man’ by Nicholas Royle executes one of the best Lovecraftian endings I’ve yet encountered. No tentacle monsters here - simply a mundane setting, an inexplicable horror and a conclusion that offers only more questions with no hint of a resolution. Oh and one more honourable mention if I may. ‘King of Cat Swamp’ by Jonathan Thomas wasn’t especially notable other than having the first ending to a horror story I’ve read in my adult life which genuinely discomforted me. That has to be worth a cookie. In all, this is definitely a worthwhile read for Lovecraft fans but even for them I would stop short of calling it essential.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Meyer

    I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway to read and review. When I seen this collection was being edited by S.T. Joshi I was rather excited and had really high hopes for the quality of tales to be read, what I got was rather middle of the road. I felt that he would of been better able to piece together a solid book of stories than he did. With that being said, it is true every story can't be perfect, especially with such a diverse bunch of writers, and there are some really solid stories I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway to read and review. When I seen this collection was being edited by S.T. Joshi I was rather excited and had really high hopes for the quality of tales to be read, what I got was rather middle of the road. I felt that he would of been better able to piece together a solid book of stories than he did. With that being said, it is true every story can't be perfect, especially with such a diverse bunch of writers, and there are some really solid stories that did rise to the top. I would say that King of Cat Swamp, The Abject, And the Sea Gave Up The Dead, Casting Call, Correlated Discontents, The Skinless Face, and Appointed, are definitely the best stories in the book, which is about half of the book when I think about it. I would be interested in comparing these stories to the first volume, as well as the third one which came out a few months ago.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Anthologies are always a mixed bag, and this one is a mix of good stuff and great stuff. Of all of the Lovecraftian collections, these two books would be the ones I would recommend to people wanting to know what the adjective "Lovecraftian" should mean.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David Marshall

    There are some outstanding stories here but the overall standard is slightly uneven. http://opionator.wordpress.com/2012/1... There are some outstanding stories here but the overall standard is slightly uneven. http://opionator.wordpress.com/2012/1...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jason Brock

    I read this a bit ago, during the proofing stage. Once again, Joshi proves why he is the master of recognizing the weird in modern literature. Do yourself a favor and pick up this book!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mii

    This book is a great read!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jason Williams

    Lovely collection of Lovecraftian stories.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bart Hill

    This collection of short stories are not all based on the style of HP Lovecraft, but more in the tradition of spooky/eerie tales that Lovecraft explored. In other words, it is sometimes said "Lovecraft never met and adjective he didn't like." The writes of these 18 shorts do not try to mimic his writing style, but used Lovecraft's themes to create unique, updated stories based on Lovecraft (the man) , the region (New England), and themes. I bought this book for $1.00, and got far better stories t This collection of short stories are not all based on the style of HP Lovecraft, but more in the tradition of spooky/eerie tales that Lovecraft explored. In other words, it is sometimes said "Lovecraft never met and adjective he didn't like." The writes of these 18 shorts do not try to mimic his writing style, but used Lovecraft's themes to create unique, updated stories based on Lovecraft (the man) , the region (New England), and themes. I bought this book for $1.00, and got far better stories than I anticipated, but I also don't think I'll read any additional Black Wings anthologies.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Most anthologies are hit and miss. Sadly, I skipped along through this one as a good deal of it just didn't catch my fancy. I'm admittedly a fan of Lovecraft specifically and not horror generally. It's not fair of me to demand Lovecraft knock-offs from authors, but when things stray too far outside the Cthulhu Mythos I start losing interest. I was disappointed at the fact that several stories included in this lacked a Lovecraftian feel, in my opinion, which really undercuts an anthology with "Lo Most anthologies are hit and miss. Sadly, I skipped along through this one as a good deal of it just didn't catch my fancy. I'm admittedly a fan of Lovecraft specifically and not horror generally. It's not fair of me to demand Lovecraft knock-offs from authors, but when things stray too far outside the Cthulhu Mythos I start losing interest. I was disappointed at the fact that several stories included in this lacked a Lovecraftian feel, in my opinion, which really undercuts an anthology with "Lovecraftian" in the title.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Admittedly, I read this as a non-Lovecraft fan. A friend gave his copy to me 'cause he needed more space, so I decided to read it. So, from that perspective, it was a decent read. There were some highly compelling stories, but there were a number of weaker that kind of dragged the series down, so I feel that it fits squarely as a 3-star. Maybe I would have liked it better if I knew about Lovecraft more. I don't know.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Edric Unsane

    A decent collection of short Lovecraftian fictions that, at times, couldn't captivate my interest or imagination. I felt a majority of the stories in this anthology just felt flat, and weren't indicative of the Lovecraftian universe. That being said, I still liked the book, and the stories were edited well, if not curated a bit poorly. Your mileage may vary.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    Another Lovecraftian anthology I picked up for $1 at a Dollar Tree (sadly, they did not have volume 1) . . . as with most anthologies, it's a little hit-or-miss, but far more hits than misses. There are some really enjoyable and wonderfully creepy stories in this one. I enjoyed it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cedric

    A collection of really excellent disturbing short stories, some of them directly linked to Lovecraftian tropes and references, but most of them just saturated with the atmosphere, but original. These are all quality stories and not pastiches or 'tribute' stories.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Drewms64

    A few good stories, a few meh

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christina Adams

    There are a few good stories in here definitely interesting and well worth reading, with twists I didn’t see coming, —- but they weren’t many.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Josh Towzey

    Favorites: Appointed The Abject King of Cat Swamp

  18. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    Some good stories here.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Toolshed

    “When Death Wakes Me to Myself” by John Shirley – 2,5* “View” by Tom Fletcher – 4* “Houndwife” by Caitlín R. Kiernan – 4,5* - Caitlín does not dissapoint, though I liked her story from the previous volume a spec more. “King of Cat Swamp” by Jonathan Thomas – 3* “Dead Media” by Nick Mamatas – 3,5 “The Abject” by Richard Gavin – 5* - Came to me as a big surprise but this was one of the pinnacles of the anthology for me. The bleak atmosphere of the trip and the events that came with it resonated really “When Death Wakes Me to Myself” by John Shirley – 2,5* “View” by Tom Fletcher – 4* “Houndwife” by Caitlín R. Kiernan – 4,5* - Caitlín does not dissapoint, though I liked her story from the previous volume a spec more. “King of Cat Swamp” by Jonathan Thomas – 3* “Dead Media” by Nick Mamatas – 3,5 “The Abject” by Richard Gavin – 5* - Came to me as a big surprise but this was one of the pinnacles of the anthology for me. The bleak atmosphere of the trip and the events that came with it resonated really well with the bleak description of a relationship gone awry. Grim, dark, lovely. “Dahlias” by Melanie Tem – 2* “Bloom” by John Langan – 4,5* - Another one of the high points of this anthology, I gotta check out this Langan guy more. “And the Sea Gave Up the Dead” by Jason C. Eckhardt – 4* “Casting Call” by Don Webb – 5* - Nothing that builds upon the Pickman's Model can be that much of a miss but this one was spot-on overall. I liked how it mixed two seemingly unmixable worlds - the "posh" world of Holywood and the ghoulish realm of the macabre. I was really interested as to where the writer will take it (me). “The Clockwork King, the Queen of Glass, and the Man with the Hundred Knives” by Darrell Schweitzer – 4* “The Other Man” by Nicholas Royle –1,5* - This had to be the worst one and I may have missed something about Lovecraft's work because I don't see how this is even remotely related to it or even the guy's legacy or anything. Not that I would consider it a good, interesting story in itself even if I didn't feel it was out of place. “Waiting at the Crossroads Motel” by Steve Rasnic Tem – 3,5* “The Wilcox Remainder” by Brian Evenson – 3* “Correlated Discontents” by Rick Dakan – 3,5 “The Skinless Face” by Donald Tyson – 3 “The History of a Letter” by Jason V Brock – 4 “Appointed” by Chet Williamson – 3,5

  20. 4 out of 5

    Travis Crockett

    I reviewed all of the stories in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV_v5... I reviewed all of the stories in this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV_v5...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kylie

    I’ve not read the first one, but I had to pick this up in the library when I saw it. Its format is lovely, I like the style of the font and illuminated start letters. Plus, this states in the header which story you are on, which not all anthologies do, and that’s very helpful. The content was the usual mix of stories I quite liked, some I didn’t like, and some I was neutral on – with one exception that I didn’t really know how to feel about. ‘Casting Call’ walks the line of being offensive, bolt I’ve not read the first one, but I had to pick this up in the library when I saw it. Its format is lovely, I like the style of the font and illuminated start letters. Plus, this states in the header which story you are on, which not all anthologies do, and that’s very helpful. The content was the usual mix of stories I quite liked, some I didn’t like, and some I was neutral on – with one exception that I didn’t really know how to feel about. ‘Casting Call’ walks the line of being offensive, bolting on bits of what is generally a religion of evil to an established if mostly ancient faith (though Lovecraft did do that with his own work). On the other hand this kind of fiction is really, really white so having a main character who is Mexican is a nice change, and from what I know of Aztec mythology the merge was done reasonably well and the author had appeared to do his homework so there’s that. Overall I think I liked it but I acknowledge that it’s problematic. The anthology is fairly decent but I still prefer Lovecraft Unbound as I enjoyed it more.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    At first I wanted to dwell over each and every story of this book, but eventually it is going to be a rather short review. "Black Wings..." are merely acceptable. I'm a deeply devoted Lovecraft fan, I absolutely understand the incredible amount and quality of inspiration his tales have been for numerous writers over the decades, hence my disappointment. Many of the stories included are not "lovecraftian" in any way, some are poorly written, some are just boring and/or awkward. I found only 2 or At first I wanted to dwell over each and every story of this book, but eventually it is going to be a rather short review. "Black Wings..." are merely acceptable. I'm a deeply devoted Lovecraft fan, I absolutely understand the incredible amount and quality of inspiration his tales have been for numerous writers over the decades, hence my disappointment. Many of the stories included are not "lovecraftian" in any way, some are poorly written, some are just boring and/or awkward. I found only 2 or 3 of them anyhow interesting and perhaps worthy to belong in the lovecraftian shelf. I don't really recommend that book unless one is truly desperate for more Lovecraft-ish reading and has already studied most of other books of this kind.

  23. 5 out of 5

    The Irregular Reader

    I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway Like all compilations, this book was a mix of the good, the mediocre, and the not so great.It's a tough genre, and living and writing in the world of H.P. Lovecraft can be a challenge. Overall, the good stories aren't enough to counter-balance the weaker ones, and the book requires a bit of a feat of strength to finish. If you are a fan of the genre, or of Lovecraft himself, this book is worth a look over if you can find it at your local library. Other I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway Like all compilations, this book was a mix of the good, the mediocre, and the not so great.It's a tough genre, and living and writing in the world of H.P. Lovecraft can be a challenge. Overall, the good stories aren't enough to counter-balance the weaker ones, and the book requires a bit of a feat of strength to finish. If you are a fan of the genre, or of Lovecraft himself, this book is worth a look over if you can find it at your local library. Other reviewers have cataloged the stories by strength, and in general, I find my recommendations for particular stories echoing theirs.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    The first collection had a bunch of stories that seemed to require direct knowledge of Lovecraft's works to really get it. These stories were more along the lines of applying the principles of Lovecraft's stories to modern times. I liked this second collection much more than the first.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Digiantonio

    Was given this as a gift by a kind student. Enjoyed about half of the stories, but as previous people mentioned, there are many weaker stories included. I would recommend a library trip for it before I'd fork over cash. Fans of Lovecraft will find entertaining but not consistent offerings in here.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dan Johnson

    While a couple of the stories seemed to have rather abrupt endings, Joshi is always able to choose tales that bring true horror to life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emory Black

    This was a great little mix of stories.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Kiernan

    The star rating of this book would be higher if the book had more stronger stories over the weaker ones. I done something I have never done before that was to skip two stories from this anthology.

  29. 4 out of 5

    The Artificer

    Solidly weird, although many of the stories weren't particularly Lovecraftian. Definitely a worthwhile addition to your weird fiction collection.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    First two stories are really good. Starting the third. I bought this book as a gift for my fiance but ended up reading it because I didn't have my book handy. Pleasantly surprised by the spookiness.

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