To the best of my recollection, this may have been my first reading of H.P. Lovecraft. Seems unlikely, I know. What I found is that Lovecraft is as familiar as meat on a stick, seen at carnivals and malls everywhere. I feel as though I know Lovecraft's work, for I've read those who influenced him (Edgar Allan Poe and Algernon Blackwood), and I've read or seen films by multitude of writers influenced by him, such as Steven King and Brian Lumley, for example. I wasn't aware until now that Lovecraft created the Cthulhu Mythos which you'll find in music, comic books, video games, and who knows what else in modern culture. Lovecraft is everywhere -- shocking! During my brief research, I discovered that a fictional book Lovecraft refers to often in his stories, "The Necronomicon," is believed by some Christian fundamentalist groups to be a real book. Amazing, isn't it, how writers' imaginations can create generational uproars? Therefore, although I have no memory of reading a Lovecraft story before this book, I probably have, either directly or indirectly, because I'm a child of a culture with a deep thumbprint of Lovecraft upon it.
The collection of stories I've read was put out by the Carlton Publishing Group, not by Createspace which has a cover by the same name, but of poorer quality and fewer stories, or so I'm told. So, be careful out there. Here are the titles in the Prion copy:
Herbert Wesst - Reanimator
The Rats in the Walls
The Call of Cthulhu
THe Dunwich Horror
The Whisperer in the Darkness
At the Mountains of Madness
The Shadow over Innsmouth
The Shadow Out of Time
The Haunter of the Dark
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
Quite a nice selection, as it turns out. Most of Lovecraft's works are public domain, but, as expected, lots of legal wrangling went on after his death (he died young! Only 47!). I loved that he was generous with his work, encouraging others to borrow from his stories, etc. In fact, the more I read about Lovecraft, the more I would have liked to have known him.
Almost forgot that I was here to write a review. Overall, I was enthralled, but the ideas are so ingrained, that they felt familiar rather than fresh. I could accurately anticipate much of the plot and was only surprised two or three times in over 600 pages--that is how deeply I've been seeped in Lovecraft's influence!
The benefit of this was that it allowed me to think outside the plot. I could ask myself, why is this or that so frightening? What cosmology has Lovecraft created here? Etc. This led to explorations of Cosmicism, which is Lovecraft's philosophy (from Wiki) "that there is no recognizable divine presence, such as a god, in the universe, and that humans are particularly insignificant in the larger scheme of intergalactic existence, and perhaps are just a small species projecting their own mental idolatries onto the vast cosmos, ever susceptible to being wiped from existence at any moment." I see now why Lovecraft has such ardent supporters. His philosophy resonates and can displace the notion of a man-centric universe that requires a personal god with a notion that we don't know what the hell is out there. I imagine, for that, Lovecraft was discredited and a bit feared.
Fear. That is what we go to horror for, isn't it? We love to fear without real danger, but Lovecraft doesn't let us off the hook so easily. You are an insect, he says, and there are things that go slop and slurp in the shadows that will eventually destroy you, and you will never see or understand them. That, folks, is cosmic horror, and it doesn't need gore to send chills. Reading Lovecraft can be pretty amazing if you have courage, entertaining if viewed on merely a plot level, but quite disturbing, perhaps, if you are of a highly sensitive nature. Reading it is your choice, of course, but Lovecraft has most likely worked his way in your psyche already.