The twenty-third book I’m reviewing on this blog is Cthulhu Armageddon by C.T. Phipps. It’s billed as a post-apocalyptic western, but I’d say calling it a western is a stretch. It’s a fantasy action thriller set in a desert wasteland, conceptually closer to a story like Mad Max than a story like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
To really have context for this novel, you need at least a cursory knowledge of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, whose popular stories include The Call of Cthulhu, The Dunwich Horror, and my personal favorite The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Lovecraft stories and mythos contain the idea that in the sea, underground, and in the far reaches of space are monstrous alien gods who will someday return to power and destroy humanity. Cthulhu Armageddon is a post-apocalyptic action novel based around the idea that in the future, Lovecraft’s gods and monsters (his specific gods and monsters, here with the same names and aspects that they have in Lovecraft’s works) have risen and wreaked havoc upon the earth. Their ravages have turned the world into a hellish place, where the surviving “civilized” humans fight for survival alongside rabid cultists, mutant monsters, and the terrible gods themselves.
Our protagonist, John Henry Booth, is one of the surviving humans in a group called the Remnant. He is a trained and tenacious soldier who struggles through shaky alliances and bitter enmities with monsters and humans in his quest for revenge against the mad wizard Doctor Alan Ward, a former scientist who believes the only way to survive with the gods is to become as monstrous as them. By his side throughout the story is his mutant friend Richard, cultist and former lover Katryn, his teammate Jessica, a professional torturer named Mercury, and a wide-eyed little girl named Jackie who’s seen entirely too much brutality for her age.
This isn’t the first brutish post-apocalyptic novel I’ve reviewed on this blog, but within that genre I think this is the best one. The premise may sound schlocky, a little too close to fan-fic perhaps (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it does have a poor reputation), but the quality of the writing here is impressive. For the most part it’s smooth, well-paced, and strikingly professional. Especially excellent were the book’s action scenes, of which there were many. These were simply incredible. Some of the characters were a little clichéd, a little stereotyped post-apocalyptic warrior, but the central characters had a lot of depth and wisdom to them, much more than you would expect in an action adventure like this.
There are a few places in the book where a sentence was confusingly structured or where the wrong word was used (‘grizzly’ when the author meant ‘grisly’, for example), but these were rare and the book’s strength far outweigh this small weakness. It is also worth noting that while this book takes ideas and personages from Lovecraft, it is not meant to be modeled on Lovecraft’s work. In Lovecraft, the atmosphere is full of dread and existential horror, carried forward and permeating the narrative through the terror, disgust, or madness of the characters. The characters in Cthulhu Armageddon do have terror and disgust and madness, but they also have humor and love and jealousy and anger. They crack wise while they crack skulls, and frequently they spit in the face of death as opposed to cowering like a Lovecraft character would. This isn’t a horror novel. It’s an action adventure fantasy novel, and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable one.
For potential readers, it is worth noting that the book has profanity and sex and (if this post hasn’t already made it clear) lots and lots of pulpy violence, so it’s not recommended to sensitive readers. I got a lot of fun out of it, and can definitely recommend it to fans of action, sci-fi, and especially the weird tales of H.P. Lovecraft.
Now as always, my bit of promo. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here: New Book Review 1–New Book Review 2–New Book Review 3–New Book Review 4–New Book Review 5–New Book Review 6–New Book Review 7– New Book Review 8–New Book Review 9 –New Book Review 10–New Book Review 11–New Book Review 12–New Book Review 13–New Book Review 14–New Book Review 15–New Book Review 16–New Book Review 17—New Book Review 18–New Book Review 19–New Book Review 20–New Book Review 21-New Book Review 22
This post was originally featured on cwbookclub.com.