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The best compliment I can give “That Which Should Not Be” is that it’s the only novel I’ve ever read three times (four counting the audio version). That’s how good it is.
Built around a series of chilling tales recounted by the novel’s characters, each is self-contained and enjoyable in its own right. Yet these individual stories contribute in ways not immediately foreseeable to the overall plot. It’s a classic kind of storytelling, and author Brett J. Talley pulls it off masterfully. In each of the novel’s composite narratives, he builds dread-filled anticipation, and pays off the reader with harrowing action.
Audiobook narrator David Stifel’s style melds perfectly with the author’s storytelling. Stifel’s delivery is precisely the voice one would expect of late 19th century men hesitantly sharing the horrible things they’ve seen and endured. This is the first audiobook of Stifel’s I’ve listened to, but based on his performance here, I will be checking out more of his work. (And certainly the audio version of TWSNB’s sequel, “He Who Walks In Shadow,” which Stifel also narrates.)
TWSNB is a Lovecraftian horror novel, meaning it borrows from the mythos created by early 20th century horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. For those unfamiliar, Lovecraft is credited with creating “cosmic horror.” In Lovecraft’s telling, at some point in the ancient past these massively powerful elder gods called the Old Ones were cast out of our world. Their return would pretty much mean the end of the world, and for that reason a lot of Lovecraft-inspired fiction revolves around human worshippers foolishly trying to awaken their favorite Old One. You needn’t be a Lovecraft fan to enjoy this novel, though if you are you’ll notice more than a few Easter eggs.
In Lovecraftian fiction, a protagonist’s powerlessness relative to the Old Ones can be taken as shorthand for humanity’s cosmic insignificance, yet Talley rejects this nihilism. In addition to all the disquieting coincidences, eerie locales, and menacing atmosphere Lovecraftian horror at its best should offers, TWSNB gives us bold heroes whose struggle valiantly against evil. Perhaps more importantly, their struggles have a point, their suffering meaning.
For all the blood and horror contained in TWSNB, it’s that belief in purpose and hope that makes it refreshing compared to a lot of modern horror, and perhaps the broader culture as well. And that, I suspect, is why I’ve returned to the novel every couple years.
13 of 14 people found this review helpful
I have read (listened) to very few books that have made me want to actually study some of the history, myths and legends contained within (alongside reading the work itself) and it made the read all the more deep and engaging. I have never been a huge Mythos fan…until now with TWSNB. With his deeply dark and atmospheric prose, Brett takes us through a series of stories, each of them rich and unique in their own right which ultimately leads us to the very gates of the netherworld. Excellent. Highly Recommended!
David Stifel really nails the narration for this one with what must have been a rather difficult job of keeping the characters straight and the plot moving without losing any of the books dark atmosphere. Very well done. I look forward to more of David's work.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
What began as a thoroughly promising book came apart in the final chapters and led me to believe the author had but a weak understanding of the Yog-Sothothery that Lovecraft created. It was in the latter half of the book that a character is Possessed by an entity that identifies itself as Yog Sothoth and from there it is all downhill. For one Yog refers to Cthulhu as his master yet we know that Yog Sothoth was akin to Cthulhu's grandfather and thing become worse when it refers to itself as Legion, fears the Cross and spouts Latin. Christanity has no place when dealing with the Great Old Ones as they predate the Bible by several million years and the less said about Yog Sothoth being described like Satan near the end with horns and hurling fireballs the better. Can I recommend the book as a work of Mythos fiction? Heck no and when this is removed from the equation you're left with a pretty generic book.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful