This volume collects, for the first time, the entire Dream Cycle created by H. P. Lovecraft, the master of twentieth-century horror, including some of his most fantastic tales, such as:
"The Doom that Came to Sarnath" - Hate, genocide, and a deadly curse consume the land of Mnar. "The Statement of Randolph Carter" - "You fool, Warren is 'dead'!" "The Nameless City" - Death lies beneath the shifting sands, in a story linking the Dream Cycle with the legendary Cthulhu Mythos. "The Cats of Ulthar" - In Ulthar, no man may kill a cat…and woe unto any who tries. "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath" - The epic nightmare adventure with tendrils stretching throughout the entire Dream Cycle. Plus twenty more tales of surreal terror!
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Azathoth The Descendant The Thing in the Moonlight Polaris Beyond the Wall of Sleep The Doom That Came to Sarnath The Statement of Randolph Carter The Cats of Ulthar Celephais From Beyond Nyarlathotep The Nameless City The Other Gods Ex Oblivione The Quest of Iranon The Hound Hypnos What the Moon Brings Pickman's Model The Dream Quest of Unknown Kaddath The Silver Key The Strange High House in the Mist The Case of Charles Dexter Ward The Dreams in the Witch House Through the Gates of the Silver Key
Songfully or Horrifically Transcending the Mundane
Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft (1995) is a collection of three dream fragments, 19 short stories, two novellas, and one collaboration story. Most of the works have thematic and or dramatic connections to dreams, and many take place in Lovecraft's "dreamlands." Most of the characters either pursue the ineffable too avidly ("with unsanctioned phrensy"), or dream beyond the toil and torpor of the "real" world. Either way, there's more to life than the daily waking world. Here's an annotated list of the stories.
1. Azathoth (1922/38) read by Robertson Dean A dream fragment in which a man travels "out of life on a quest into the spaces whither the world's dreams had fled."
2. The Descendant (1926/38) read by Simon Vance This dream fragment begins "In London there is a man who screams when the church bells ring" and asserts that our reality is one atom in a vast fabric of time and space.
3. The Thing in the Moonlight (1934/41) read by Sean Runnette In the third dream fragment a dreamer desperately tries to write himself awake out of a terrible nightmare featuring a railroad car and a tentacled conductor.
4. Polaris (1918/1920) read by Elijah Alexander No warrior, the dreamer is manning the watchtower to protect Lomar from squat yellow invaders when a leering star sends him inopportunely to sleep.
5. Beyond the Wall of Sleep (1919) read by Stefan Rudnicki A degenerate murderer in an insane asylum proves that "Freud's puerile symbolism" can't explain real dreams: "our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon."
6. The Doom that Came to Sarnath (1919/20) read by Robertson Dean Sarnath, a mighty city 10,000 years ago, receives a 1000-year pay back.
7. The Statement of Randolph Carter (1920) read by Bronson Pinchot Randolph Carter recounts Harley Warren's descent into the foul hole of a sepulcher, Carter having "witnessed" the adventure above ground via portable telephone.
8. The Cats of Ulthar (1920) read by Elijah Alexander Why the people of Ulthar never harm cats.
9. Celephais (1920/22) read by Simon Prebble Realizing that "the urges and aspirations of waking life lead to nothing," Kuranes escapes its prosaic poison by dreaming himself into Celephais.
10. From Beyond (1920/34) read by Tom Weiner Obsessed with research revealing the real universe, including hideous unseen aliens all around us, Crawford Tillinghast ("a shuddering gargoyle") shares his discoveries with the narrator.
11. Nyarlathotep (1920) read by Stefan Rudnicki A bleak dreaming/waking trip through space and future into "the audient void": "past ghastly midnights of rotting creation, corpses of dead worlds with sores that were cities, charnel winds that brush the pallid stars and make them flicker low."
12. The Nameless City (1921) read by Malcom Hillgartner The narrator travels by camel into "a parched and terrible valley under the moon" and descends into a ruin "protruding uncannily above the sands as parts of a corpse may protrude from an ill-made grave."
13. The Other Gods (1921/33) read by Stefan Rudnicki Barzai the Wise learns the hard way that gods don't like men accessing their inaccessible places.
14. Ex Oblivione (1921) read by Sean Runnette Because "no new horror can be more terrible than the daily torture of the commonplace," the narrator takes a drug and "songfully" dissolves "again into that native infinity of crystal oblivion from which the daemon Life had called me for one brief and desolate hour."
15. The Quest of Iranon (1921/35) read by Elijah Alexander In this ironic Dunsany-esque tale, Iranon, a vine-crowned, singing youth, is on a quest for an imaginary city called Aira in which he believes he'd been a prince.
16. The Hound (1922/27) read by Simon Prebble From the pre-Raphaelites through the decadents to diabolism, the narrator and his friend become aesthetic ghouls in England till they grave-rob an obscene amulet.
17. Hypnos (1922/23) read by Simon Vance A Poe-esque story featuring doubles, drugs to dream beyond dreams, and drugs to avoid "Sleep, that sinister adventure of all our nights."
18. What the Moon Brings (1922/23) Read by Sean Runnette "I hate the moon--I am afraid of it--for when it shines on certain scenes familiar and loved it sometimes makes them unfamiliar and hideous."
19. Pickman's Model (1926/27) read by Malcom Hillgartner An artist paints pictures of monsters breaking into the upper world from subways and cellars, not from imagination, but from LIFE, as in a painting of a demon "gnawing at the head [of a man] as a child nibbles at a stick of candy."
20. The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (1927/43) read by Bronson Pinchot Randolph Carter quests for a marvelous inaccessible dream city evoking "the poignancy and suspense of almost-vanished memory, the pain of lost things." He visits places like Dylath-Leen, Celephais, and the Cerenerian Sea, encounters beings like zoogs, ghasts, and gugs, travels by galleon, zebra, and yak, and is transported by cats, night-gaunts, and hippocephalic shantak-birds. The novella is rich and dense with beautiful dream/nightmare writing, as when Carter is "stopped by a red-robed sentry till he had told three dreams beyond belief, and proved himself a dreamer worthy to walk up Thran's steep mysterious streets and linger in bazaars where the wares of the ornate galleons were sold." There's also some humor, as when Carter's ghoul allies are "in general respectful, even if one did attempt to pinch him while several others eyed his leanness speculatively." The finale is superb.
21. The Silver Key (1926/29) read by Bronson Pinchot After prosaic daily life occultism, religion, and authorship fail him, Randolph Carter at 54 is contemplating suicide when he finds a key.
22. The Strange High House in the Mist (1926/31) read by Tom Weiner The people of Kingsport (near Arkham) avoid a strange crag and the strange house atop it, while a philosopher avid for mysteries climbs up and is invited in.
23. The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1927/43) read by Robertson Dean Prematurely aged Charles Dexter Ward inexplicably disappears from an insane asylum, leaving behind a disturbed Dr. Willett. The novella involves historical research, underground labs, immortal wizards, enspirited paintings, and summoned spirits.
24. The Dreams in the Witch-House (1932/33) read by John Lescault Dreaming and waking merge with increasing horror for Walter Gilman, a Miskatonic University student studying mathematics and witchcraft and renting an unwholesome room in an unwholesome house.
25. Through the Gates of the Silver Key (1934) read by Bronson Pinchot The lawyer cousin of the absent Carter wants to divide up his estate, while his friends want to wait for his return, and a strange Swami relates what happened to him: "Had his whole quest not been based upon a faith in the unreality of the local and partial?" E. Hoffmann Price co-wrote the story.
Lovecraft's indescribable/unspeakable/nameless/blasphemous monsters, horrors, structures, and musics often verge on the vague and absurd. But he also writes rich descriptions and imaginative set pieces and has a finely warped sense of humor. His dreamland stories build a mythos less detailed and more nightmarish than Tolkien's. Lovecraft's sensitive dreamer/artist/writer/scientist heroes explore metaphysical reality, dreaming and perception being more important than physical action because "illusion is real and substance unreal." And because appalling horror lurks around the corner, his heroes--unlike John Carter and Conan--are bundles of nerves prone to fainting fits, paroxysms of terror, and psychological breakdowns (night-gaunts snatch Randolph Carter's unused scimitar and tickle him into submission!). And unlike Carter and Conan, Lovecraft's heroes have no interest in romance (indeed, apart from an ineffectual mother and a wicked witch, there are no female characters in this collection). He favors poetry and imagination over science, but uses scientific language and concepts to authenticate his fantasies. His vision is bleak: "the blind cosmos grinds aimlessly on from nothing to something and from something back to nothing again, neither heeding nor knowing the wishes or existence of the minds that flicker for a second now and then in the darkness."
The readers of the audiobook are mostly fine, the best being Robertson Dean (savorily bass), Stefan Rudnicki (richly bass), Simon Vance (elegantly intelligent), Simon Prebble (gravelly dignified), and Bronson Pinchot (creepily tender).
Fans of imaginative (if febrile, purple, and pulpy) stories fusing fantasy, sf, and horror should like this collection.