Genre: Horror/Western/Dystopian Sci-Fi
Publisher: Crossroad Press
There are few authors who live on in the cultural sphere the way H.P. Lovecraft does, at least within genre fiction. His influence transcends various cultural forms not only literature, but we see his fingerprints on TV, movies, video games, comics, music and even science (just ask Erich von Däniken). One of the reasons for Lovecraft’s longevity is most likely not his use of adjectives, his inability to describe the horrors he envisioned or his overt racism. It is the world and characters he imagined, the great old ones and the figures who interacted with them. The fascination with these nightmarish creatures has spawned a slew of copycat writers both pastiches and parodies. Even during his lifetime authors like August Derleth and Robert Bloch expanded his vast universe with their own creations and stories to such a degree that they today appear canonical, they become a integral part of that shared universe.
C.T. Phipps’ book Cthulhu Armageddon, while not doing exactly that, borrows heavily from the Cthulhu Mythos and everything surrounded it. To an expert in the field like S.T. Joshi or Robert M. Price it is a cornucopia of references and nods to everything Lovecraft and that should be enough to make a fan want to read it.
Billed as a dystopian sci-fi western Cthulhu Armageddon is set one hundred years after the return of the old ones. They have destroyed much of civilization and created a desert landscape with pockets of humanity, living in frontier like towns. There is a Richard Brautigan type quality with a Gothic flavor reminiscent of The Hawkline Monster, but more violent and less noir.
John Henry Booth is a ranger out of New Arkham, one of the new city-states and on a mission to The Black Cathedral to retrieve some kidnapped children when his crew get more than they bargained for. Cultists who become reanimated eradicate his squadron and Booth himself is cursed by the necromancer Ward. Ostracized by his community and seen as the one to blame for the failed mission Booth ventures into the wasteland to avenge his men, find the children and locate one of his missing rangers. His adventures take him through the dreaded Dreamlands and confronts Nyarlathotep and fights night gaunts, with the aid of a doctor and young girl.
The difference between Phipps’ book and those of Derleth, Bosch or Lumley is that while inspiration is a key element the constant threat of destruction brought on by Cthulhu and his ilk has happened and man must live with those consequences. Cthulhu Armageddon is a fast paced tale that blends science-fiction, horror with western tropes. Phipps’ protagonist Booth narrates the tale in a hard boiled style reminiscent of Spillane or Ennis and gives the darkness and melancholy it needs. There are several nods, as previously stated, to classic Lovecraft tales, as well as some of the man’s friends; Clark Ashton Smith makes an appearance and Chambers’ book The King in Yellow.
The book may not further the Cthulhu Mythos as such, but it is a fun read for fans and is an interesting take on what the future may hold for us all.