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The Watchers Out of Time by August Derleth

The Watchers Out of Time

by August Derleth

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This collection was hit or miss. The biggest thing that stuck out is there are at least 3 stories that have someone inheriting an old creepy house from ancestors that were cultists. The title story is actually unfinished and hence a waste of time. A couple others are interesting and couple other not so good. It's hard to tell what's Lovecraft's and what's Derleth's but I would say Lovecraft fans could live without this collection and not be the worse for it. ( )
1 vote ragwaine | Sep 11, 2012 |
Derleth published the stories in this collection as 'posthumous collaborations' with H. P. Lovecraft, which could charitably called stretching the truth. The reality is that Derleth took story fragments or ideas from Lovecraft's notes and then wrote entire stories based off of those. I have to admit I would have been curious to know how much Lovecraft actually contributed. (How about an annotated edition? What you say, Joshi, you up for it?)

Even that wouldn't be so bad, except that it appears that the some of the notes or fragments he used to write his stories were for stories that Lovecraft had already completed. It's a little reminiscent of Borges' Pierre Menard, and Derleth is at his most Menardian with 'The Shadow Out of Space' which is, as the title suggests, just a rehash of 'The Shadow Out of Time.' That's the worst of it, though some of the other stories suffer from a similar déjà vu, such as 'The Peabody Inheritance' which crosses 'The Dreams in the Witch House' with 'The Rats in the Walls' while failing to be as good as either.

It's not always bad. 'The Lamp of Alhazred' is a retelling of 'The Silver Key,' though I rather liked the way it mythologized Lovecraft. (Though this does mean that you may not really enjoy it unless you're familiar with HPL.)

Derleth is actually a pretty good writer, stumbling mostly when he tries too hard to ape Lovecraft. (This is particularly noticeable in his use of italics, which he manages to push to the point of parody.) He does have a bad habit of repeating the same plots in this collection, especially of the man who inherits some ill-omened house or other piece of property.

Of the stories, I'd single out these five as the best:

The Survivor - A man rents a house that was previously owned by an eccentric old doctor. The lawyer he rents it from mentions the house is in a sort of limbo until an unnamed heir shows up. As the man settles in, he finds the old doctor's notes, which reveal a strange fascination with reptiles and life extension. Soon, he starts to hear weird sounds in the night. A nice mix of supernatural and science fiction elements.

The Ancestor - The narrator's childhood friend requests his presence in helping him with some research. When the narrator arrives, the friend reveals he has made some astonishing discoveries into the nature of memory, though at the cost of his own health. As the research progresses, the friend worsens. There's a fair amount of Poe and Machen, but it feels more like homage than theft. Marred only by the italicized and too vague ending. (An additional hint or two would have helped to make the vagueness suggestive instead of just opaque.)

The Shadow in the Attic - This is easily the best of the 'man inherits house from evil ancestor' stories. The house in question has a strange dark splotch on one of the attic walls, which looks astonishingly like a person. The heir soon begins to feel that the house wants something from him, then strange noises and sights begin to trouble his sleep. There's a great sense of mystery as well as some nice descriptive passages. Additionally, the house begins to have an effect on the heir's relationship with his fiancé, which provides an additional dynamic and sets up an eerie yet amusing ending.

The Dark Brotherhood - A young man and his (Platonic?) female friend share a passion for walking the streets of the city at night. One night they meet up with a curious fellow who resembles Edgar Allan Poe. This one eventually takes an interesting science-fiction turn, where it gets wild and surreal but in a good way.

The Fisherman of Falcon Point - There's almost a sense of myth to this tale of an old fisherman who spares the life of a rather peculiar mermaid who ends up in his nets one night. Not really scary, but a definite uncanny sadness to it.

Not an amazing collection, but with enough good stories that I'd say it's worth a look. ( )
4 vote CarlosMcRey | Mar 19, 2010 |
This is the best collection of stories I've read yet! Three of the stories -- "Witches Hallow," "The Shadow in the Attic," and that "Middle Tower" story are repeats, but deliciously tasty when read again! This is why I believe Lovecraft will survive eons to be our 20th century Poe. King's work is quite different, and although he outsells just about everyone, his craft is not a fraction as sharp as Lovecraft's (no pun intended). (The only reason I didn't give this book five stars solid is the last story is unfinished, and that is thoroughly frustrating.) ( )
  andyray | Jun 27, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
August Derlethprimary authorall editionscalculated
Palencar, John JudeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This collection DOES NOT include the story "The Lurker at the Threshold". DO NOT combine with other similarly-named collections that include this story.
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Book description
Contains the following stories:
  • The Survivor
  • Wentworth's Day
  • The Peabody Heritage
  • The Gable Window
  • The Ancestor
  • The Shadow Out of Space
  • The Lamp of Alhazred
  • The Shuttered Room
  • The Fisherman of Falcon Point
  • Witches' Hollow
  • The Shadow in the Attic
  • The Dark Brotherhood
  • The Horror From the Middle Span
  • Innsmouth Clay
  • The Watchers Out of Time
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