Review: At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

When a geologist leads an expedition to the Antarctic plateau, his aim is to find rock and plant specimens from deep within the continent. The barren landscape offers no evidence of any life form – until they stumble upon the ruins of a lost civilization. Strange fossils of creatures unknown to man lead the team deeper, where they find carved stones dating back millions of years. But it is their discovery of the terrifying city of the Old Ones that leads them to an encounter with an untold menace.

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft. Originally published in 1936. This audio version was published in 2018 by Audible Studios (?), unabridged, 5 hours and 8 mins long. Narrated by Ron Welch. Horror Aficionados March 2019 pick for group listen.

I am a huge fan of horror and I love the subcategory of creature horror. I’ve been reading and watching horror since I was itty bitty. In all this time with horror, I had never read anything by H.P. Lovecraft before. I know! He is a horror icon and his books and creatures are classics. I know of them. I know the basic gist of them as well… just, for whatever reason… I’ve never read any of them. I even enjoy reading pulp era fiction, too! H.P. was just someone I had always been meaning to get around to reading at some point, but just never have. I was pretty excited to finally get around to reading one of his stories.

I loved the premise of Mountains of Madness. I am a big fan of expeditions-in-to-the-unknown-gone-wrong, especially when it is in Antarctica. I also enjoy a good lost or hidden civilization story, so I was already pretty happy getting started with this story. H.P. did a really amazing job of building up this ruined city and the inhabitants that lived there. Say what you will about the man, one thing that is hard to argue is his vision for the horrifying creepiness in the universe. I was really surprised at the sophistication and intelligence of the Old Ones. The story is told through the eyes of one of the scientist who only briefly explored the ruined city and the underground passageways. He did not see everything and he did not have many answers for what he was seeing, so this story is filled with questions and theories. Don’t expect everything to be cleared up by the end.

In the Mountains of Madness is a slow tension builder. In fact, the first bit of the book is filled with science facts and terms that almost border on tedious lecture territory. It is kind of fitting though, because you have to keep in mind it is a bunch of scientist from a university, so tedious lecturing is par for the course with these guys. The last few hours of the book did leave you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what was going to happen next. It was a nice creeping horror story.

Lovecraft references his other stories a lot. The main characters often mention something they read in the Necronomicon or someone has heard a colleague they know talk about the Cthulhu cults, etc. Sometimes I felt a little out of the loop having never read any of them. He gives you enough to get the over all idea of what he’s saying, but I guess I just wished I had read the other things first. Since H.P. has such a spread out yet connected mythos universe going on, perhaps he is best read in chronological order. I’ll have to keep that in mind for future reference.

I had a real hard time finding an unabridged version of this story on Audible. The one I did find was narrated by Ron Welch. He did an ok job. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it. He did have a nice ominous vibe going on the crazier the story got. I think my biggest problem with him is just that he was not very believable as a 53 year old professor. I don’t know how old Ron was when he did this audiobook, but he just sounded way too young. I know it’s a small thing, but it kind of bugged me in the back of my head the whole time I listened to the story.

At the Mountains of Madness was an entertaining, slow burn cosmic horror story. Yes, it was slow going, but it did build up some nice tension and the ending left you waiting to see what was going to happen next. H.P. Lovecraft has a very unique, creative vision with the things that inhabit the universe as well as the ones that have made their home here on our planet. The narrator, Ron Welch, did an ok job but wasn’t very believable as an older man.


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