Review: The Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft

Mountains of Madness is H. P. Lovecrafts longest story, and at times as you read the story it certainly feels as if it is the longest, though there are a few others that were much harder to read. This is in fact a very interesting story most of the time, though I could have done with a little less detail in a few points and a good editor could probably make this into a fantastic story.

The basic story is that there is a expedition to the Antarctic by a group from Miscitonic university. This group of professors and grad students plans to check the ice for fossils and other points. Since they are from Arkham this can hardly be expected to go right. After all this is the university that requires every professor to read the Necronomicon before they are allowed to begin teaching.

Things go well at first and then a small group of the men decide to fly over the south pole. This is important because at the time they really were exploring and people didn’t know what was there like someone with a satellite image might. Anyway, they discover mountains which are thousands of feet taller than Everest and begin to explore.

Inside these mountains they find huge numbers of fossils including some very strange and well descried fossils which appear to be a sort of mix between plants, starfish and a amphibious flying creature. Basically imagine everything mixed together into a weird fossil.

From this point on things do not really go well. The main group is getting wireless communications from those exploring and they discover more and more until finally another group is sent after them as this has become the find of the century. (though the writer of the story is writing it to convince people not to ever go there again.)

From here they find huge amounts of H. P. Lovecraft mythos including the old ones, information about many of the gods, wars and other creatures who have been to earth and a giant city. There are even things that the Necronomicon seemed to assume were not ever on earth and almost all of them either dangerous to humans or at least not all that friendly.

It is hard to really explain this book because the truth is that it is really more about exploring the strange H. P. Lovecraft world than anything else, but the key phrase to me was the idea that humanity wasn’t evolved or created by a loving God, but creating by powerful beings either as an accident or a joke.  Either way it probably isn’t good for us. This isn’t really a belief that I hold to, but as an idea for world building it is so different from the general assumptions that it finds huge gulfs of open story ideas that no one else has touched on, and in large part I think that is what makes H. P. Lovecraft so interesting, he isn’t the best writing, and certainly not the best human being, but he has a world view, at least in his fiction that is different from so much else.

I don’t know that I would recommend this to many people who are wanting to jump into Lovecraft mostly because its length means that if they don’t like it a lot they are far less likely to finish, but for anyone who has enjoyed anything of H. P. Lovecraft and wants to know more about the world that he wrote about, or for fans of John Carpenters the thing, the Mountains of Madness is a great story to read.