I wasn’t prepared for this collection of Lovecraftian stories from Cody Goodfellow, but they were some of the best cosmic horror shorts I have read this year. Packed with all the dripping dread that Lovecraft was famous for, Goodfellow manages(and does quite well) to not only adapt the traditional style of cosmic horror and weird fiction, but pulls out stories that are quite unique all on their own.
Of these, there were a few favorites that I will mention below, but I have to mention first that Goodfellow calls these “pastiches” of(or tributes to) Lovecraft right out of the gate. I will make a disclaimer that they are and are not. They resemble and honor the master of cosmic horror, but in some of these stories, Goodfellow has managed to define his own style under the shadow of Lovecraft’s own. Not an easy feat by any means, and one that takes full advantage of the dread, the existential, and the weird.
The collection opens with “The Anatomy Lesson,” which follows two med students, who go to grave rob bodies until they find out that not everything is dead in the cemetery. While, this story embodies a lot of the same feelings I have had when reading Lovecraft, there was something more elevated, more dread inducing. The descriptions and scenes prickle the back of your neck, zeroing in on the small lizard part of your brain. Goodfellow did a fantastic job with not only modeling Lovecraft’s style of prose, but also telling a very original story about human arrogance and what happens when you trust your own knowledge too much, to your own folly.
“To Skin a Corpse” is a unique blend of gangster-noir and cosmic horror. Full of brutal acts of violence and body horror, this story took me by surprise and dragged me horrified to the very end. It was such a strange journey. Following a pair of crooks and a lover, they attempt to save their badly injured colleague. Nothing goes as planned.
And finally, to comment on the title story, “Rapture of the Deep,’ which is a deep, psychological dive, both figuratively and literally. Centered around psychics at the bottom of the ocean, as they examine the pits where the Old Ones live. This story may have been the best in capturing the overall legacy of Lovecraft by virtue of setting and tone, but the themes and prose were all Goodfellow and he delivered. Dealing with the Cthulhu mythos always begs to shout its creator’s name, but instead this gets re-directed back into the main characters who exist not only as themselves, but invade one another’s minds. It’s all rather incredible.
This is a must read for any fan of the Lovecraft mythos or brilliantly written cosmic horror/weird fiction.