Here we go with another of my sort-of-popular running reviews! I have a lot of books lined up, in fact, so I need to be Disciplined, Efficient, and Other Unfamiliar Things. Right, let's go.
The Things That Grow With Us is a self-published collection by Jordan Anderson. Self-published can mean a lot of things. Yes, a lot of self-published stuff is terrible. But it's arguable that the next Harry Potter will be self-published simply because who in their right mind what's to go through that many rejections? I'm glad to say that TTTGWU is not by any means a bad book. It has its faults, judging from what I've read so far, but these are not so significant as its virtues. And what book is without flaw, anyway?
Right, we're in Lovecraftian territory. That's your first an final warning. The book begins with a quote from the film Event Horizon, which you may recall is about a cathedral-shaped starship that visits a kind of cosmic hell and returns with a strange cargo. The first story. 'The Further We Soar Into Madness', takes this idea as its quasi-theme, and features an epigraph from Lovecraft's 'The Festival'. And yes, there are tentacles.
The story is really two narrative threads that are interwoven, sort of. We begin with a very familiar scene, in which Edward Jamison secures a safe deposit box left by his dear old dad. Needless to say, this being Lovecraft country, the box does not contain a stash of Kruger Rands. Instead he finds a journal, and a mysterious amulet. The action then shifts back in time and far away in space, as we find out what happened when Jamison Snr. went to Europa, the icy and probably oceanic moon of Jupiter.
This is where I had a problem. I don't think the earth-based palaver with the Jamison inheritance adds anything to the story. Opening manila envelopes that have been sealed with wax and so forth seems frankly absurd in the context of a futuristic tale. It is mere window dressing of a familiar sort. Without it, admittedly, the story would just be a tale of space explorers encountering monsters. And it is, really. The scenes on Europa in which not one but several expeditions attempt to contact a Huge Thing under the icy surface are well done. But I felt that the mind-blasting horror of it all simply wasn't there. We have seen this too often to justify overblown prose.
'I seek that which man has been evolutionarily bred to fear, the darkness of alien oceans and the black behind the veils of reality'.
There's far too much of this and it doesn't really work for me.
The same can be said for the backstories of various characters. They are just not that interesting. It's as if Lovecraft spent the first quarter of At the Mountains of Madness giving biographies of the captains and first officers of his explorers' ships. He did not do this because it would have added nothing to the story bar padding. I think the tendency of Hollywood to bore us with the bios of cardboard cut-out characters has spread too far into written horror, to be honest.
That said, 'The Further We Soar Into Madness' is entertaining in spurts. It's solidly constructed, just badly cluttered and over-long.
Stay tuned for my take on the next story, which is a very different beast entirely.