Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Read December, 2021
Recommended for the Lovecraft-curious
★   ★   ★   1/2

 

 

I had heard this was a collection of short stories, so I went into it with fair expectations, I think. There’s an interesting blend of Lovecraft and race awareness that sort of works, but sort of doesn’t. I think I 100% felt more anxious and concerned about the race-based conflicts than any supernatural ones. Which is, after all, no doubt what Ruff intended: just like in the zombie apocalypse, it’s always the other people that are the most dangerous. Still, despite expecting shorts, something about most of them felt more fragmented and less complete than I wanted. Part of it is because the ‘action’ is usually equally distributed between the race conflicts and the Lovecraftian/otherworldly ones.

Lovecraft Country –titular story is the longest, and yet it felt like it wandered too much to be a self-sufficient story. It begins with ex-soldier Atticus heading to Chicago and experiencing disturbing–but not unexpected–racist incidents on the way. A note left from his father, Montrose, and rumors of a mysterious white man and a black sedan sends Atticus and his uncle haring off after his dad. His uncle and his wife are the creators and publishers of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, a great concept that’s generally integrated well into the story.

Dreams of the Which House –a haunted house and disturbing neighbors.
Abdullah’s Book –Adventures in solving a puzzle in a hidden room.
Hippolyta Disturbs the Universe–Hippolyta, amateur astronomer. I liked this one.
Jekyll in Hyde Park –all about Ruby. This one was deeply disturbing and thought-provoking and one of the better examinations of systemic racism, as well as Cain’s role in all their lives.
The Narrow House–Bainwaithe’s ex-partner’s child.
Horace and the Devil Doll–the son, Henry
The Mark of Cain–bringing it all together

It’s an interesting collection. Does is gestalt as well as Ruff would like? Maybe not. Does it set the Lovecraftian mythos on it’s side? Not really. But it does a really fascinating job integrating racial consciousness into the story. However, for the most part, the pattern of discrimination is overtly racist law enforcement or housing-adjacent neighbors, and not the more insidious kinds of racism that go unchallenged around us every day. It isn’t until the stories of both Hippolyta and Ruby (in ‘Jekyll’) that Ruff integrates a little more of educational racism as well as aspects of race in desire and access.

Three and a half stars, rounding up because of the women’s stories

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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