H.P. Lovecraft

At the Mountains of Madness

At the Mountains of Madness is the second of Lovecraft's longer works that I've read. It's very good, about par with The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath or a little better (less madly inventive, but with greater unity of structure and tone).

It's written as a belated disclosure of what the Miskatonic University Antarctic expedition really discovered, in addition to what its published reports disclosed, as a warning against future antarctic exploration. There's a fine sense of impending doom throughout, as well done as anything since Lord Dunsany's The Gods of the Mountain. "At last," I thought about halfway through, "this is one of the books that earned Lovecraft his reputation as the master of horror." The setting is extremely well done, though of course dated by later Antarctic exploration; the plot is tight, and the style is rich. The only major flaw is the characterization; well enough done for the narrator, but all the other characters are interchangeable. I have a couple of minor nits to pick as well: Lovecraft's sloppy use of "infinite" for large but finite quantities, and his imprecise use of "blasphemous". Other than that, it's an excellent story.

(1997/12, rev. 2007/4)

There is also a radio play adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness by The Atlanta Radio Theater Company. It changes the narrative structure a lot (it's hard to do a radio play based on one guy's monologue) but preserves the essential nature of the tale very well. I recommend it.

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