This was an incredibly long book, which took me several hours of reading to get through. H.P. Lovecraft’s style is kind of like a mixture of Dante and Edgar Allen Poe (he even mentions both of them in one of this stories), in that the stories are often very complex and wordy, with a lot of description; I also noticed a few Jules Verne similarities in some of the stories (a few of the stories have definite similarities to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in that they describe the discovery of bizarre fantasy lands).
The book can be best described as an anthology of horror/fantasy/science fiction stories, which vary in length from just a few pages to the point when they seem more like novels in their own right. There seem to be a lot of recurrent themes in the stories; many of them end in the appearance of one or more horrific creatures, and there are several stories that deal with the concept of dreams, often describing them as actually taking place in some other land (in one story, a character is obsessed with exploring a fantasy land that he goes to in his dreams). I noticed several creatures or other concepts (for example, Azathoth) were mentioned in several of the stories, and a few of them actually have sequels at later points in the book; this is somewhat different to anthologies by authors like Poe and Stephen King, who write stories that are completely self-contained.
Some of the stories are very profound and hard to follow, mostly through being quite wordy and slightly overlong, but there were some that worked better and I found myself enjoying the book more as I progressed (the first twelve stories occupy almost half of the book due to their length), and I liked the stories that were more subtle (kind of “less is more”), where there was merely an impression of a monster; some stories are made very ambiguous, with characters giving the impression that the events could have been a dream or hallucination. Also, Lovecraft does not go into lots of explanations about why strange things are happening, you just accept that they are happening (Stephen King’s stories are similar, and in one of his books he does state that he hates having to explain why something happens); it’s just a case where the reader has to suspend disbelief and accept the events in the story.
This is definitely worth reading for anyone who enjoys horror, but particularly if you read books like The Divine Comedy and Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination and enjoyed them.
Next book: He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond