Lovecraft’s unnerving novella, At the Mountains of Madness was my next read, and I can’t believe how much I enjoyed it. It’s dark, frightening, and immensely enjoyable.
An Antarctic expedition finds something they don’t expect, and from there the tale descends into horror and madness. I feel that the story influenced the short story of Who Goes There, as well as the films made from it, The Thing From Another World, and of course, The Thing.
Geologist William Dyer is part of the expedition party from Miskatonic University, and he and his fellows plan to stage a full out exploration and sampling of the Antarctic continent.
When one of his associates, Professor Lake goes exploring in a plane, he discovers a towering chain of mountains, with the possible remains of ramparts decorating its surface. The very presence of the mountains is forbidding and unnerving, but no where near as troubling as what Lake unearths.
He discovers the remains, some incomplete, some whole of strange beings that seem to be neither plant nor animal.
This is the part of the novella that I love the most. Lovecraft tries to ground as much of the early story in a realistic and scientific basis as possible, even while hinting at elder myths and horrors documented in the Mad Arab’s Necronomicon.
Lake reports back to his fellows a full description of the beings, and even attempts to dissect one.
And then, nothing but silence from the camp.
When Dyer, and a pilot, Danforth, fly one of the expedition planes to the site, not only are they awed and troubled by the seemingly endless mountain range, but they are horrified by the destruction and mutilation they find in the camp. The party members that accompanied Lake are dead, a number of the strange bodies have been buried in an unusual manner, and there are things missing.
Continuing their exploration, they decide to see what is over the mountain range, but may not be ready for what they find.
From there, the story expands into a tale of exploration, horror and human pre-history, as the world building Lovecraft has done through all his work weaves its way through this tale as well, as we hear of the Shoggoths, Cthulhu, Old Ones and more.
A deserted (?) aeons-old city lays before them, and from the art, and murals, they are able to piece together the history of the strange, frightening creatures, who may have created man simply as an entertainment, or a mistake.
What happens there is troubling, frightening, and written as only Lovecraft could. His prose gets under your skin, and makes for an unnerving tale.
I think I’m going to have to visit more of his stories in the near future.