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I’m starting off my Halloween reading season with a collection of 15 short stories based on the Cthulhu Mythos of famed horror writer H.P. Lovecraft.  Published in 2013 and happily distanced from Lovecraft’s controversial, read flat-out deplorable, views on race, these stories present a diverse mix of characters in a wide variety of settings.  Although each author’s style is distinctly their own, all these stories share the common themes of “play[ing] with the action side of Lovecraft’s writing” and more often than not dwell on the psychological effects of the human characters encountering all manner of bizarre creatures and/or coming to face ageless, eternal evil.

As with any collection there were some stories I liked more than others, though I will say that they were all consistently strong.  I’m not very well versed in this genre, but every single author in this volume was able to hold my attention and interest throughout their story.  In the interest of time and space, I’ll share here my top five from the collection (in no particular order):

Old Wave, by Rob Heinsoo

Told from the perspective of an indigenous man, the story opens as the he and other prominent members of his tribe set off in their canoes to visit a nearby village.  Upon arrival, though, something seems off to him. The others seem not to notice, but the meat served from the unexpectedly large shellfish tastes wrong and the once familiar ancestral songs have changed and become almost unrecognizable.  Is he going insane or are there greater forces at play?

Lithic, by Dennis Detwiller

A college student returns to his sleepy Vermont hometown for winter break and takes a job working as a security guard.  He is assigned the night watch at a new ski slope being built on a mountain that previously served as a hangout and party spot for the local high school students.  It’s terrain with which the man was once intimately familiar, but something now feels very wrong and his connection to reality is fading.

Snack Time, by Chris Lackey

A laboratory researcher being stalked through the streets of present day Los Angeles by a Hound of Tindalos, a foul, time traveling predator, makes his last stand in a Chinese food/donut shop.  With the creature methodically killing everyone around him, he will need to act fast if he wants to escape alive.

Last Things Last, by A. Scott Glancy

A detective story in which a young woman recently recruited into an occult investigation unit is paired with a seasoned veteran.  Their assignment is to clear the house of a recently deceased former operative to make sure he didn’t leave behind any evidence of his occupation.  This seemingly easy assignment takes a turn, however, when it becomes apparent that the man took on a rather unconventional hobby after retirement.

The One in the Swamp, by Natani Barron

Monster hunting sisters Lydia and Cassandra stumble into a Georgia swamp and work with the locals to try to clear the evil presence preying upon the community.  Upon confronting the creature, however, one of them harbors serious doubts about what the real enemy may be.