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At the Mountains of Madness: The Definitive…

At the Mountains of Madness: The Definitive Edition (Modern Library… (original 1936; edition 2005)

by H. P. Lovecraft (Author), China Mieville (Introduction)

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8732615,347 (3.83)6
Title:At the Mountains of Madness: The Definitive Edition (Modern Library Classics)
Authors:H. P. Lovecraft (Author)
Other authors:China Mieville (Introduction)
Info:Modern Library (2005), Edition: Definitive Ed, 224 pages
Collections:Your library

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At the Mountains of Madness: The Definitive Edition by H. P. Lovecraft (1936)

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I have read a few HP Lovecraft stories, and they have all disappointed me. This one is actually a novella, and I liked it much more. I can actually see form this story why people might enjoy his work.

This story has all the usual Lovecraft themes--exploration (Antarctica this time), strange happenings, strange beings, fear. And the usual narrator saying "It was so awful I can't actually say it!" which drives me crazy. This narrator, though, did actually finally explain what he saw--but not what his co-pilot saw that caused a breakdown. An improvement nonetheless!

I do think that the novella format allowed Lovecraft to get into the meat of the story. There is lots of description, and a map or illustration might have been nice--but I have my own in my head now. I also read this on the Serial Reader app, so maybe text versions do have some illustrations. I wonder how close what is in my head is what Lovecraft was trying to describe.

I do still think I would have enjoyed Lovecraft's work a lot more if I had found it in middle or high school. I was obsessed with Agatha Christie at the time. ( )
  Dreesie | Jan 21, 2019 |
At the Mountains of Madness is an extraordinary and evocative tale, the third and best of Lovecraft's short novels. The Antarctic continent had fascinated Lovecraft since childhood, when he had written treatises on the explorations of Wilkes, Borchgrevink, Scott, Amundsen, and others; he also followed, with care, Admiral Byrd's explorations of 1928 - 1930. Lovecraft's frequent citations of the Himalayan artwork of Nicholas Roerich reflects the thrill he received at seeing Roerich's paintings in the Nicholas Roerich Museum in new York.

Lovecraft was devastated when Weird Tales initially rejected this story. The manuscript languished for years until the young Julius Schwartz, acting as Lovecraft's agent, sold it to Astounding Stories, where it was serialized in the February, March, and April 1936 issues.

This brilliant story was not recognized as a work of genius until years later. Lovecraft has gone from being perceived as a writer of a peculiar type of fiction that appeals to a very limited audience to being a respected literary figure whose work measures up against other classic American writers, such as Poe. This is no small feat for a writer who sold his work almost exclusively to disposable pulp fiction magazines that were read almost exclusively by horror enthusiasts. Until recently, Lovecraft's legacy was as obscure after his death as in his lifetime.

We cannot deny that every horror writer after Poe was influenced by Lovecraft. We love him for his monsters, true, but we also love his treatment of human laws and values, which he dismissed as having "no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large..." Lovecraft's world chills us for its recognition that human life is very small and negligent.

My favorite aspect of At the Mountains of Madness is Lovecraft's treatment of the monsters the narrator finds deep in the Antarctic:

"They had not been even savages - for what indeed had they done? That awful awakening in the cold of an unknown epoch - perhaps an attack by the furry, frantically barking quadrupeds, and a dazed defense against them and the equally frantic white simians with the queer wrappings and paraphernalia... poor lake, poor Gedney... and poor Old Ones! Scientists to the last - what had they done that we would not have done in their place? God, what intelligence and persistence! What a facing of the incredible, just as those carven kinsmen and forbears had faced things only a little less incredible! Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, starspawn - whatever they had been, they were men!" ( )
  bookishblond | Oct 24, 2018 |
I've never read anything by this author before, but I've spent some time over the years reading about him. My interest in Lovecraft is mostly because of the influence that Lord Dunsany's work had on his writing. However, whereas Tolkien was heavily inspired by Dunsany's use of invented mythology, Lovecraft seemed to hone in on the "weirdness" of Dunsany's stories, and took that "weirdness" into full-blown horror fiction.

At the Mountains of Madness is Lovecraft's masterpiece and one of the primary inspirations for the film "Alien." The parental origins of that movie can be found here. However, I find "Alien" to be far, far scarier. The first half of Madness reads like a genuine primary document, a first-person account of a voyage to Antarctica in the early 1900s. While it never could be called "well-written," the author's voice has an genuineness about it that makes the story feel real. I enjoyed the descriptions of the plant-like alien bodies that are unearthed. There really is a feeling of menace; the jack-in-the-box handle is turning.

About halfway through its telling, the novel really sabotages itself . The main character and his colleague descend deeper and deeper into the ruins of a strange, alien civilization. All of a sudden, the story shifts from plot and foreboding descriptions to the narrator's conjecture about the entire history of the rise, decline, and fall of the species. This explanation is comprehensive, undeserved, and murders the entire sense of mystery at hand. It's as if Lovecraft was so bursting with excitement over his invented history that he couldn't wait for the most natural moment to deliver it. Pop! Flat tire! When the time finally arrives for the characters to run like hell from the monsters, the novel hobbles along without a spare.

I'm sure that eighty years ago Madness creeped readers out like nothing else. Since then, the tale has been surpassed and perfected. I would very much like to see Guillermo del Toro's take on the material, but who knows whether that adaptation will ever take place. Because of this novel's unquestionable place in the history of horror, I'll recommend it to others. But because its historic relevance is all that it can offer, I can't really rate it any higher.

3 stars. ( )
1 vote Sylvester_Olson | Jul 1, 2018 |
“I am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my advice without knowing why.”

𝘈𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘔𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘔𝘢𝘥𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴. Holy God. Or Unholy God. What a fucking work. I’d read one collection of Lovecraft’s short stories (twelve titles in all) and was left with a strong and singular impression—especially with “The Lurking Fear”, which totally must’ve had an influence on my favorite horror movie of all Todd-lengthed time: Ridley Scott’s 𝘈𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘯. Why haven’t I read more until now? I guess I felt it was a bit cliché to write horror and become such a fan of one of the most famous practitioners of the dark literary arts. Kind of like wearing a Stephen King shirt at a Cthulhu convention. How cheesy. Also, I was far more enchanted by the likes of Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Robert E. Howard and the early Gothic classics as well as the Romantic poets and fabulists (I’m looking at you Shelley and Shelley).

Oddly enough, I find 𝘔𝘰𝘣𝘺-𝘋𝘪𝘤𝘬 to be the strongest parallel to Lovecraft’s classic than anything else I have read: in structure, in tone, in style. The narrative is constantly interrupted by scientific discovery and reportage, transmissions between characters, a whole host of biological terms strung together to form a pseudoscientific patois that seems anything but “pseudo”. Like the flensing scene and other catalogues of whaling life in Melville’s masterpiece, this novella plotted much the same course, if maybe using more arcane equipment, listening to diabolical demon whispers instead of lightning burning up the mast, obsession slinking along dark tunnels with horrors in bas-relief instead of rocking unknown dark waters to self-annihilation. Similitude and verisimilitude in spades.

The restraint in this is quite astonishing—especially when it’s dripping in verbosity and hyperbole. I know that sounds like a contradiction, to be both methodical and overblown, but somehow good ole Lovie Howie Phillips pulls it off. Much like Melville did. Because, to be fair, writing an entire narrative about a mission of one hellbent sea captain chasing a white whale across the oceans with heavy dollops of Zoroastrianism and a walloping indictment against Emersonian self-reliance while intercutting the action with plodding technical details on pelagic whaling could’ve easily swamped the gunwales and downed the whole damned ship. Just like that previous sentence nearly did.

Am I the only one to note this parallel? Is it my own obsession? I just can’t separate the kinship between the two with their faithful detailing, both stark and magnificent, their natural shift from prosaic to sun-struck dazzling whiteness, their lead characters wedded to monomania and shrunken by the bulk of their hunted mystery, their unforgiveness of beings who tread or sail or climb too far. Silly humans.

I was struck by Lovecraft’s mention of Poe’s 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘕𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘈𝘳𝘵𝘩𝘶𝘳 𝘎𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘰𝘯 𝘗𝘺𝘮 𝘰𝘧 𝘕𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘶𝘤𝘬𝘦𝘵 twice in his own novella—a novella within a novella—moons around moons: “I was interested myself because of the Antarctic scene of Poe’s only long story.” Also, one passage of “distant mountains” and the “whole white world” are described as Dunsanian. Interesting since “Lovecraftian” is an adjective writers are comfortable pulling from their own personal lexicons (of which, I am one such transgressor).

I know that Guillermo del Toro has had this project on the backburner, moved to the front burner, back to the aft burners again. And if it ever gets greenlit and he employs the same balance of restraint and brain-melting shock at otherworldly horrors, it could be nearly as good as the book. Nearly. Some things must be read to be believed.

As a totally irrelevant side note, it’s amusing and comforting for me to stumble upon the phrase “but musical piping”. Even Lovecraft was susceptible to the but/butt grammatical hilarity.

“This will form my last word. If the plain signs of surviving elder horrors in what I disclose be not enough to keep others from meddling with the inner Antarctic—or at least from prying too deeply beneath the surface of that ultimate waste of forbidden secrets and unhuman, aeon-cursed desolation—the responsibility for unnamable and perhaps immensurable evils will not be mine.” ( )
  ToddSherman | Mar 17, 2018 |
I slogged through it- just barely! Had a hard time reading and understanding any of the visual descriptions. ( )
  EmpressReece | Mar 9, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
H. P. Lovecraftprimary authorall editionscalculated
Miéville, ChinaIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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I am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my advice without knowing why.
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This is the Modern Library edition which contains an introduction by China Miéville, "At the Mountains of Madness," and Lovecraft's essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature." Please do not combine with other collections.
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At the Mountains of Madness
Supernatural Horror in Literature
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812974417, Paperback)

Introduction by China Miéville

Long acknowledged as a master of nightmarish visions, H. P. Lovecraft established the genuineness and dignity of his own pioneering fiction in 1931 with his quintessential work of supernatural horror, At the Mountains of Madness. The deliberately told and increasingly chilling recollection of an Antarctic expedition’s uncanny discoveries–and their encounter with untold menace in the ruins of a lost civilization–is a milestone of macabre literature.

This exclusive new edition, presents Lovecraft’s masterpiece in fully restored form, and includes his acclaimed scholarly essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” This is essential reading for every devotee of classic terror.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:14 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

From the Publisher: Long acknowledged as a master of nightmarish visions, H. P. Lovecraft established the genuineness and dignity of his own pioneering fiction in 1931 with his quintessential work of supernatural horror, At the Mountains of Madness. The deliberately told and increasingly chilling recollection of an Antarctic expedition's uncanny discoveries-and their encounter with untold menace in the ruins of a lost civilization-is a milestone of macabre literature. This exclusive new edition, presents Lovecraft's masterpiece in fully restored form, and includes his acclaimed scholarly essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature." This is essential reading for every devotee of classic terror.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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