How can any fan of HP Lovecraft not pick up a book with a title like “The Mall of Cthulhu”? For those who aren’t familiar with Lovecraft’s work, one of his more famous writings is called The Call of Cthulhu, and deals with a tentacled monster from another dimension that’s so mind-numbingly horrific that to even describe it would drive you mad, mad I say, so as I public service I won’t describe it.
The cover art is top-notch, causing the book to damned near leap off the shelf at me. So with a quick run through my nearly foolproof book pre-screening system, and I was ready for some tentacle-laden, Lovecraftian, horror-comedy.
A decade ago, college student Laura Harker was saved from a fate worse than death at the hands (and fangs) of a centuries-old vampire priestess and her Satanic minions. Her rescuer, an awkward, geeky folklore student named Teddy, single-handedly slew the undead occupants of the Omega Alpha sorority house, spurred into heroic action by fate itself, inexorably intertwining his and Laura’s destinies.
After navigating her way through law school, Laura is now a junior FBI agent assigned to the Bureau’s Boston office. Unfortunately, she finds her job involves more paperwork than adventure. Ted, on the other hand, has spent the past decade perfecting the ultimate latte, and works as a barista in a nearby corporate chain coffeehouse named for a character in Moby Dick.
When Ted stumbles onto a group of Cthulhu cultists planning to awaken the Old Ones through mystic incantations culled from the fabled Necronomicon, calling forth eldritch horrors into an unsuspecting world. He and Laura must spring into action, traveling from Boston to the seemingly-peaceful suburbs of Providence and beyond, all the way to the sanity-shattering non-Euclidian alleyways and towers of dread R’lyeh itself, in order to prevent an innocent shopping center from turning into… The Mall of Cthulhu.
At 235 pages, The Mall of Cthulhu was a quick read. The pace was snappy. The writing was clean and error-free.
The plot flowed well, although there were a couple leaps of faith that require you to not suspend your disbelief as much as tie it up in a rubber gimp outfit. I know Providence, Rhode Island isn’t very big, but running into a Cthulhu cultist (one that you are looking for, no less) buying bayberry spice candles at Ye Olde New England Candlery in the mall isn’t a stretch, it’s a tear in the space-time continuum. However, running into a Cthulhu cultist buying bayberry spice candles at the Ye Olde New England Candlery is damn funny. Seamus does a good job of using comedy as an effective plot-patching, hand-waving, rubber-chicken-waving tool. When the plot jumped, I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to get mad about it.
The story is written from 3rd person limited POV, bouncing back and forth between two protagonists: Ted, the scruffy and emotionally damaged barista with the inner resources to lop vampires heads off with an axe when necessary, but not the ability to cope with the memories of his actions, and Laura, the hot and proper, emotionally damaged, lesbian FBI agent. The dynamic between these two is great, and the way it changes through the story (when a little red pepper is added…) is well done.
Those expecting a HP Lovecraft clone may be disappointed. This is a parody. However, fans of Lovecraft will get more laughs out of this story. The part where Ted is stuck in R’lyeh and ponders “…his own reality with its comforting, Euclidean geometry…” had me laughing so hard my stomach hurt. And the name dropping of August Derleth and such… well, if you don’t get it, it won’t ruin the book for you, but it adds to the humor if you’re in on the jokes.
Yes, HP Lovecraft was a Racist
Many of the reviewers on Amazon.com gave this book poor reviews because of references to racism and politics. The Mall of Cthulhu has plenty of references to HP Lovecraft as a racist / white supremacist. There’s no question that he was racist in real life. If there was any doubt, a little poem discussing the Gods creating African Americans should clear this issue up:
“…A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure, Filled it with vice, and called the thing a Nigger.”
– HP Lovecraft ‘On the Creation of Niggers’
Q.E.D. HP Lovecraft. Racist. But we can all agree that he wrote some amazing stories, and I don’t understand why it’s such a task to separate the artist from the art. Walt Disney, Wesley Snipes, and Phil Spector might each have some whacked-out values that few sane people would agree with, but do we need to disclaimer all their art: Warning – Contents created by a nazi / tax dodger / psychotic, homicidal maniac! Of course not.
Seamus had the opportunity to show us by example that he didn’t approve of Lovecraft’s views by leaving that kind of segregation and hatred out of his own work. Instead, he chose to “hate the haters” and he created bad guys who weren’t bad enough because they were trying to destroy the world, they also had white supremacist pamphlets in their bathrooms, and called those opposed to their plans “Race traitors” (Huh? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call people trying to destroy the world “Species traitors”?)
Whatever. I would have enjoyed the story more without the racial and political undertones. They were unnecessary and took away from the plot and humor of the story. But they didn’t ruin the story for me as they did for some people. If you are sensitive to these issues, beware. If you are secure in your political and racial views, then this book won’t upset you.
The Author – Seamus Cooper
You won’t find much online about Seamus Cooper. This interview of Seamus Cooper on brendanhalpin.com makes him out as a Luddite when it comes to the internet and a Harlan Ellison-ite about most everything else. But he seems to have come around since then, since he can now be found on Twitter and Facebook:
Free E-Book Sequel
Seamus has posted a free e-book sequel to The Mall of Cthulhu called Dog Walk Of The Dead, and depending on interest in the free e-book, he just might write/release more material for The Mall of Cthulhu mythos.
Free E-book of The Mall of Chtulhu
Due to a falling out with his publisher, Night Shade Books, Seamus decided to release The Mall of Cthulhu for free on Scribd, and for $2.99 on Amazon’s Kindle, in an attempt to undercut his unpaying publisher. I can’t find either version now, 17 July 2010. This might be related to Seamus and Night Shade Books coming to some resolution, which you can read about here.