Sunday, December 30, 2012

SPOILER FREE Book Review: Ghouls of the Miskatonic

Ghouls of the Miskatonic
Graham McNeill

From the back of the book:
It is the roaring twenties, and strange things are happening in the small Massachusetts town of Arkham.  When mutilated bodies are found on the grounds of Miskatonic University, is it the work of a serial killer, or something much darker?  While a professor seeks his own answers, nightmarish premonitions plague his most gifted student.  Meanwhile, a reporter trawls the town's dark underbelly for clues, and a bootlegger stumbles upon a strange, otherworldly device.  Now, these unlikely investigators must unite to seek answers to a mystery that threatens all they hold dear.

The Review:
Ironically, when I purchase a book online, I try to avoid reading the reviews there.  Not only because they may contain spoilers, but also I find that some people may seem unusually harsh, or have some weird expectations when they read a book like this.  They are entertaining reads, not thesis worthy masterpieces!  That said, I did accidently glance at the reviews, and I'm really afraid it may have influenced my views before I even read the book.  Aside from that, I went into the book asking myself these basic questions:

1) Does it feel like Lovecraft?
2) Would a read the next book?

I'm familiar with Graham McNeill from his Warhammer 40k novels, and as one of their "main writers", I may have had some prior expectations.  So, how did Ghouls of the Miskatonic stack up?

Does it feel like Lovecraft?
Honestly, Yes and No.  for starters, it felt like the author missed the mark on trying to capture the feeling of 1920's/prohibition era America.  It wouldn't have felt out of place if one of the characters had whipped out a cell phone and dialed 911 at certain points.  I had to keep reminding myself the date this book was taking place in, the feeling just wasn't there.  I can't entirely fault the author though, as he is from "across the pond", he may not have been entirely familiar with our own history and what life was like during that period as far as racially, politically, and stylistically.  On the reverse side, I can honestly say I don't really know a thing about what life was like in England or Scotland during those times either and any novel I wrote about that period would probably be miss the mark too!

Sadly, that wasn't the only issue I found.  It lacked a lot of the mystery, the "unseen terror", that often marked a Lovecraft story.  Nonetheless, it still had some interesting parts that made the story worthwhile.  Honestly, the whole story felt like a written out version of a game of Arkham Horror, and little else.  He packed a lot of characters from the game into the story, and in my opinion, overstuffed the story with them.

Would I read the next book?
Ghouls of the Miskatonic is book 1 in a trilogy, so the question is, would I read the next one?  While not a bad book per se, the series is not high on my "to read" list.  Don't get me wrong, the book wasn't bad... it was just kind of luke warm.  I would say that I would read book #2 in the series IF i had nothing else to read and was really in the mood for something Lovecraft-esque.

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