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Lovecraft Country PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: Lovecraft Country
Author: Matt Ruff
Publisher: Published February 14th 2017 by Harper Perennial (first published February 16th 2016)
ISBN: 9780062292070
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George — publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide — and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite — heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors — they enco Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George — publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide — and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite — heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors — they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours. At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn — led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb — which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his — and the whole Turner clan’s — destruction. A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism — the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.

30 review for Lovecraft Country

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”The sphere suddenly burst open like an orange turning inside out, dark rind splitting to reveal a wriggling white pulp. Dozens of pale tentacles shot out, wrapping around the man’s limbs, torso, neck, and head, and yanking him forward to be swallowed whole before he could cry out.” There you are, Mr. Lovecraft. I see you trying to slide out of the frame. Okay, I picked this book up expecting the pages to be brimming with all those fascinating creatures that came from the demented mind of H. P. L ”The sphere suddenly burst open like an orange turning inside out, dark rind splitting to reveal a wriggling white pulp. Dozens of pale tentacles shot out, wrapping around the man’s limbs, torso, neck, and head, and yanking him forward to be swallowed whole before he could cry out.” There you are, Mr. Lovecraft. I see you trying to slide out of the frame. Okay, I picked this book up expecting the pages to be brimming with all those fascinating creatures that came from the demented mind of H. P. Lovecraft, but really, for the most part, the creatures in this novel are more of the human kind. I thought I was in for a mind bending, possibly gorish, pulp fiction treat. Just check out the cool cover. However, the book proved to be not only a book of depth, but a book of social consciousness. The cover may have sold me, but the plot kept me completely enthralled. Atticus Turner is returning from a stint in Korea, serving his country. His father has gone missing, and he starts the long journey from Florida to Chicago to start looking for him. For me, a trip of that length is just a long journey, but for Atticus, it is more like an odyssey. Because of the fickleness of fate, I was born caucasian, which pretty much allows me to stop and eat wherever I chose, or stay in whatever hotel I want to, or drive down a highway with very little fear of being stopped by the police. Atticus is African-American; still, in 1954, he has to rely on a guide that his uncle published called ”The Safe Negro Travel Guide”. It provides a list to people of color of places that will actually serve them food and places that will allow them to rent a hotel room. I recently read a book on the baseball player Satchel Paige, and so I was already well aware of the despicable and disheartening way that African-Americans were treated while trying to travel across this country. As to be expected, it was way worse in the South, but there were still issues even in the Northern states. Racism may be cultivated in Southern states, like a birthright, but in the 1950s, a black man could run into it just about anywhere. Yet, once Atticus crosses the Mason/Dixon line, he can’t help but whoop for pleasure, as if he has just survived a storm tossed voyage across an angry sea. Atticus and and his father, Montrose, had a falling out over his enlistment in the army. Matt Ruff does an excellent job explaining both sides of the argument. Atticus’s father was a Black Panther before there was such a thing as a Black Panther. Atticus doesn’t own the same level of anger at the forces aligned against him as his father does, but circumstances are about to change that may alter his opinion. It turns out that the Braithwhite family has shackled Montrose in the basement of their grand, New England manor with the hope that Atticus will come to rescue his father. What makes this even more insidious is the Braithwhite family used to own the Turner family, a few generations ago, as slaves. The Braithwhite family are part of a secret cabal called The Order of the Ancient Dawn. Atticus soon learns that he is important to them, not because he is black, but because he has Braithwhite blood. Wait...hmmm...how could that be? Could it be the Lord of the Manor stuck his willie in Atticus’s great-grandmother? And then condemned his own offspring to a life of slavery? There are so many affronts against morality in this situation that it is difficult to list the actual order of most unethical to least unethical. Needless to say, things get really, really weird. One of my favorite sections of the book was titled ”Jekyll in Hyde Park,” where Ruby, an aunt of Atticus’s, has her own run in with Caleb Braithwhite. He offers her a potion that allows her for a time to be a tall, beautiful, confident white woman. The difference from being that woman and the reasonably attractive black woman she really is are like having a lump of coal in one hand and a diamond in the other. ”Now the hand of Henry Jekyll was professional in shape and size. It was large, firm, white, and comely. But the hand which I now saw, clearly enough, in the yellow light of a mid-London morning, lying half shut on the bedclothes, was lean, corded, knuckly, of a dusky pallor and thickly shaded with a swart growth of hair. It was the hand of Edward Hyde.” Ahhh, I love Stevenson. The stories are all interconnected as we learn more about the Braithwhite family and their long association and obsession with the Turner family. There is magic, and other worlds, and nightmares, and dreamscapes, all with the overall arching theme of the world of Lovecraft and pulp novels. Lovecraft as Oscar I did think to myself that Matt Ruff might have also been making some commentary on the controversy of the Lovecraft image being the Oscar of the World Fantasy Awards. We have discovered much about Lovecraft, and the more we learn, the more tarnished his image becomes. He was an unapologetic racist and misogynist. Past winners of the World Fantasy Award must have to buff the blackening from his head quite often. If you want to continue enjoying Lovecraft’s fiction and his truly outrageously creative mind, I would suggest not reading too much about the actual man. This book is an ode to pulp novels, but also a very revealing book about all aspects of what it was like to be a person of color in the 1950s, trying to survive a “Lovecraft Country” that was intent on disrupting their attempts to have lives of substance. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    Lovecraft Country is a collection of inter-connected stories about an extended African American family in the mid to late 1940's and their encounters with things not of this world, notably sorcerers, a gateway to another world, and a haunted house. Holy. Shit. Lovecraft Country is an early front-runner for the best book I've read in 2016. Here's how it all went down. Lovecraft Country is the story of the Green/Turner family, an African American family trying to make ends meet in the Jim Crow era. Lovecraft Country is a collection of inter-connected stories about an extended African American family in the mid to late 1940's and their encounters with things not of this world, notably sorcerers, a gateway to another world, and a haunted house. Holy. Shit. Lovecraft Country is an early front-runner for the best book I've read in 2016. Here's how it all went down. Lovecraft Country is the story of the Green/Turner family, an African American family trying to make ends meet in the Jim Crow era. Matt Ruff does a great job of contrasting the cosmic horror of the Lovecraft mythos with the everyday horrors of racism and ignorance. I loved how each story used Lovecraft staples as a starting point and interjected a member or two of the Turner family. The ages-long connection between the Turners and the Braithwaites was very well done. For an evil mastermind, Caleb Braithwaite was a well-drawn character, far from the scene chewing villain he could have been. The magic system was well done and true to the tale's Lovecraftian roots. The Turners were capable but not superhuman by any means. Honestly, I can't think of anything bad to say about this book. It hit all the right buttons for me. It has the momentum of a collection of pulp yarns but the writing is far superior to most stories of this kind and the Jim Crow era setting and the well drawn characters set it several notches above most books of this type. Five out of five stars. Good luck impressing me after this, next book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sr3yas

    ❝ From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.❞ -------- H. P. Lovecraft------- Do you know what the irony here is? Despite the supernatural elements like black magic, haunted houses, mysterious coven and nameless realms which populate this tale, the real horrors that haunt these pages are the injustices of Jim Crow era; The blind racism which raged through Uncle Sam like a wildfire consuming lives, proving once again that It's not the ghosts you need to fear, but the man himself. Oh ❝ From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent.❞ -------- H. P. Lovecraft------- Do you know what the irony here is? Despite the supernatural elements like black magic, haunted houses, mysterious coven and nameless realms which populate this tale, the real horrors that haunt these pages are the injustices of Jim Crow era; The blind racism which raged through Uncle Sam like a wildfire consuming lives, proving once again that It's not the ghosts you need to fear, but the man himself. Oh, one another thing. H.P. Lovecraft: The man who captivated the imagination of millions of readers with his unsettling mythos and entrancing writings. He was also a racist who never shied away from showing it. The irony here is naming this book after him even though the story hardly has anything to do with Lovecraft or his mythos. I was actually chuckling at the fact that yet another book exists with Lovecraft's name where the heroes are African-Americans. Lovecraft must be glaring at Matt Ruff from abyss ever since the publication of this book! (Bonus Irony: Using Lovecraft's own quote as the lead-in to this review. 10 points to me!) The shadow over Chicago. The story is set in the mid-50's; We are introduced to an array of characters, notably Atticus Turner, his father Montrose, Monrose's brother George & his family and Letitia & Ruby, two sisters living in Chicago. The story begins with a road trip to find Atticus's father, who went missing while he was trying to find out about his wife's ancestry. As Atticus, Letitia and George enter an odd locality to find him, they are introduced to unimaginable wonders and *horrors rituals that set off events which put their life and their family's life inside a dark and complex web of power struggles. (*They can imagine all sorts of horror. They were African-Americans living in the 50's) Despite being billed as a horror story, this is a surprisingly fun read. The story is episodic in nature, each chapter focusing on one event and a set of interconnected characters, which finally leads to a grand finale. I loved the structure of the story and the situations presented in it. But the best parts are undoubtedly the excellent characterization of the cast, their rich dialogues and naturalistic portrayal of racism. This is neither a horror read nor a Lovecraftian one. The story is closer to urban fantasy and adventure genre and it is very very exciting. The characters are very likable (Even our anti-hero is too damn likable) and the stories are filled with memorable moments. Highly recommended. ----------------------- “But you love these stories!” Atticus said. “You love them as much as I do!” “I do love them,” George agreed. “But stories are like people, Atticus. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You try to cherish their virtues and overlook their flaws. The flaws are still there, though.”

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    There's two ways that I enjoyed this novel. The first was the racism angle and the happy ending despite all the horrible things that happen in this tale and against blacks in good-ole-boy country in 50's 'murica. Racism, enslavement on multiple levels, the desire to try on another skin, all of it was both a repudiation of fantasy and pulp fiction's other skewed-ness way from black heroes. This novel dealt with the issues head-on and I liked it. :) The second was how the novel was also a huge sampl There's two ways that I enjoyed this novel. The first was the racism angle and the happy ending despite all the horrible things that happen in this tale and against blacks in good-ole-boy country in 50's 'murica. Racism, enslavement on multiple levels, the desire to try on another skin, all of it was both a repudiation of fantasy and pulp fiction's other skewed-ness way from black heroes. This novel dealt with the issues head-on and I liked it. :) The second was how the novel was also a huge sample-dish of horror tropes, a love story to cultists, sorcerers, well-researched secret societies, evil doll tropes, tentacles, paranoia, haunted houses, and so much more. The author knows his shit. Lovecraft? Sure, but think of a slightly milder take, not quite attempting to draw us deeper and deeper into the depths of awe-turned-horror, but skipping us across strangeness to strangeness across the entire tale, sampling a bit of each dish while focusing more on character-journeys that don't quite make them go insane or get pulled into other dimensions or get eaten by non-euclidian geometries. This is an anti-racist funhouse of horrors. :) Of course, if you are subject to racism, yourself, you might just fall into this tale and call it a novel of pure horror, but at least you can rest assured that there will be a happy ending. :)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    I'm between 2.5 and 3 stars, but I rounded up because I'm a Matt Ruff fan from way back. Yeah, Tina, that's how I felt after reading this book. This was one crazy, creative, confusing ride!! In 1954, the U.S. was still deep in the throes of segregation and blatant racism. When Korean War veteran Atticus Turner finds out his estranged father Montrose has gone missing, accompanying a young, confident-looking white man to a small town in New England, Atticus knows he must find him and see what troub I'm between 2.5 and 3 stars, but I rounded up because I'm a Matt Ruff fan from way back. Yeah, Tina, that's how I felt after reading this book. This was one crazy, creative, confusing ride!! In 1954, the U.S. was still deep in the throes of segregation and blatant racism. When Korean War veteran Atticus Turner finds out his estranged father Montrose has gone missing, accompanying a young, confident-looking white man to a small town in New England, Atticus knows he must find him and see what trouble he has gotten himself into. Accompanied by his Uncle George, publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, and his childhood friend Letitia, the trio experience more than their share of racist and dangerous encounters along the way, as they travel in and out of less open-minded communities. "White people in his experience were far more transparent. The most hateful rarely bothered to conceal their hostility, and when for some reason they did try to hide their feelings, they generally exhibited all the guile of five-year-olds, who cannot imagine that the world sees them other than as they wish to be seen." When they arrive in the small town of Ardham, Massachusetts, and the sprawling manor home of Samuel Braithwhite (who happens to be the ancestor of those who owned Atticus' grandmother), they are somewhat shocked to find Montrose kept prisoner in the cellar of an Ardham building. Braithwhite and his son Caleb are part of a secret order called the Order of the Ancient Dawn, and the group has very interesting plans for a ritual to regain their power—a ritual that involves Atticus. And while Atticus may have a trump card to play, using it may unleash years of danger upon his family and friends. What follows are interconnected chapters involving Atticus, George, George's wife Hippolyta and his son Horace, as well as Letitia and her sister, Ruby. The chapters involve all sorts of magic, occult, ghosts, racism, space and time travel, social commentary, and threats of violence, as one who was once in power tries to establish his dominance again. These are wild stories for which you'll need to seriously suspend your disbelief, but Matt Ruff tries to provide pointed commentary on how racism can destroy the fabric of our country and cause people to do things they know they shouldn't. Lovecraft Country pays homage to the horror novelist (and racist) H.P. Lovecraft. It's well-written and creative, but it just gets too unhinged after a while. The narrative in each section seems disjointed and the pacing at times moves slower than I would have liked. But when the book starts barreling toward its conclusion, it makes you feel a little breathless, as you wonder how Ruff will tie everything up. Matt Ruff's first novel, Fool on the Hill, a fantasy totally unlike this book, is one of my favorite books of all time. His subsequent books definitely challenge your perceptions of reality and are tremendously thought-provoking. I know that this was the objective here, too, but it just didn't quite click for me. But if a combination of social commentary, allegory, and the occult sounds irresistible to you, definitely pick this up, because combined with Ruff's storytelling talent, it may be a home run for you. See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....

  6. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 4* of five MAY 2018 NEWS The mooted HBO series picks up steam to my joy. What a great thing this *could* be, the richness and beauty of the story well-served by the episodic treatment...but of course there's the "nothing good is ever guaranteed" gnome gnawing my hope-bone.... MAY 2017 NEWS The book will come to HBO as a series! W00t! I voted for this book in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. I reviewed BAD MONKEYS not long ago, in preparation for reading this book. That was a three-plus s Rating: 4* of five MAY 2018 NEWS The mooted HBO series picks up steam to my joy. What a great thing this *could* be, the richness and beauty of the story well-served by the episodic treatment...but of course there's the "nothing good is ever guaranteed" gnome gnawing my hope-bone.... MAY 2017 NEWS The book will come to HBO as a series! W00t! I voted for this book in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. I reviewed BAD MONKEYS not long ago, in preparation for reading this book. That was a three-plus star read, mostly for the sheer audacity of the ending, and I do love me a twisty ending. This book gets four glowing platinum stars because, from giddy-up to whoa, there is no let-up in the wildly inventive excitement blasting from Ruff's imagination/fire hose. Not a moment when things slack off, not a corner left unscoured for dramatic (and amusing, lots of in-jokes of which nothing is made because enough that they're there) possibilities. And let me step outside the fiction's pleasures for a moment and say that this treatment of the vileness that is racism is both inventive and appropriate. For that reason alone, and there are plenty of others, this book merits your vote in the Goodreads Choice Awards. Why not five? Because ending. Ending okayness after this wild trip? Hmph. Gimme more. You have before, Mr. Ruff, and if ever a tale deserved a slam-bang ending it's this one.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    This is a difficult book for me to review. I think I love it in spite of itself. Or maybe I love it in spite of stuffy old me. You see, if I filled out a checklist of what I like in a novel, Lovecraft Country wouldn’t get many checks. The prose itself isn’t much (no spare elegance, no stylistic flourishes); the characters, though amiable, lack depth and definition; the plot is rambling, episodic, and not all that interesting in itself; and, although it’s got the name Lovecraft in the title, the s This is a difficult book for me to review. I think I love it in spite of itself. Or maybe I love it in spite of stuffy old me. You see, if I filled out a checklist of what I like in a novel, Lovecraft Country wouldn’t get many checks. The prose itself isn’t much (no spare elegance, no stylistic flourishes); the characters, though amiable, lack depth and definition; the plot is rambling, episodic, and not all that interesting in itself; and, although it’s got the name Lovecraft in the title, the supernatural element of the book isn’t really scary at all. So don’t read it, right? Wrong! Lovecraft Country is the story of Atticus Turner and his family, a bunch of bookish, nerdy African Americans—including one would-be comic book artist/writer, one would-be astronomer, one science fiction fan, and one publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—who live in Chicago in the 1950’s. In the course of a road trip to find missing father Montrose, the Turners experience all the challenges of a racist America (Jim Crow, “sunset towns,” vicious local sheriffs, etc.) only to discover along the way that they have a sinister connection to the Braithwhites, a family of white wizards—not Klu Klux Klan wizards, the devil-summoning kind—residing in an obscure part of Massachusetts. It seems the Braithwhites have plans for Atticus and his family,and they are very evil plans indeed. Ruff writes a fast moving, energetic prose which catches and keeps your attention, and fills his book with varied incidents and frequent changes of scenery. His characters, although not deep, are extremely likable, and he makes us care about their fates. Although the book’s occult elements aren’t terrifying—not even very suspenseful—the descriptions of racist America in all its ‘50’s glory are horrific. Ruff has done his historical research well, and he presents us with an America filled with obstacles and fraught with danger for every person of color. The real miracle of the book, though, is that Ruff manages to accomplish all this with both lightness and reverence, fashioning an adventure saga about Black Americans confronting a racist world without a hint of liberal tentativeness or lofty condescension. Lovecraft Country is a work of cultural appreciation, not appropriation, and is also an excellent adventure novel too. There’s a great moment near the end of Lovecraft Country when the wizard Braithwhite tries to threaten the Turners, and the entire clan roars at him with laughter. ”What?” Braithwhite shouted, looking at them as if they were crazy. “What’s so funny?” But for a long while they were laughing too hard to answer. “Oh, Mr. Braithwhite,” Atticus said finally, wiping tears from his eyes. “What is it you’re trying to scare me with? You think I don’t know what country I live in? I know. We all do. We always have. You’re the one who doesn’t understand.”

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    H.P. Lovecraft, like many of his time (1890-1937) was by today’s standards, a racist. His ideas about “inferior” races comes across in many of his stories in varying degrees. Most readers of his work cite The Horror at Red Hook as the low point of this element of his canon. That paranoid and prejudiced story reveals in Lovecraft a viewpoint of “us and them” that goes beyond isolationist philosophy and may shed light on motives for the eldritch, dark themes of his writing. Many writers since, thoug H.P. Lovecraft, like many of his time (1890-1937) was by today’s standards, a racist. His ideas about “inferior” races comes across in many of his stories in varying degrees. Most readers of his work cite The Horror at Red Hook as the low point of this element of his canon. That paranoid and prejudiced story reveals in Lovecraft a viewpoint of “us and them” that goes beyond isolationist philosophy and may shed light on motives for the eldritch, dark themes of his writing. Many writers since, though, have taken up his occult subjects and ran with them, creating the sub-genre of fantasy / horror now known collectively as “Lovecraftian”. Lovecraft was, like all of us, a mixed bag of good and bad, pluses and minuses, successes and failures. Like Philip K. Dick and an unfortunate crowd of writers over the centuries, Lovecraft’s success came largely after his death. Those influenced by him have taken his gloomy inspiration and created Lovecraftian works that continue to entertain and scare readers today. Matt Ruff’s 2016 work Lovecraft Country, pays homage to Lovecraft’s arcane work while also casting a satirical tone on the racial elements of Lovecraft’s work and protesting those elements in an entertaining and provocative novel. Members of an African-American family in the 1950s encounter and engage Lovecraftian components in a tale that Lovecraft himself would likely not have written. Readers follow along to encounter secret societies, ancient allegiances and occult magic. More than this, though, Ruff uses the Lovecraftian themes to describe racism in our society, and history, to be the real horror, far more scary than something old HP could invent. Reminiscent of Victor la Valle’s excellent 2016 novella The Ballad of Black Tom, this takes more time to get where it's going and the narrative quality of Ruff’s message is diluted with too much over the top commentary. Whereas La Valle’s work is a fast and exciting story that delivers an anti-racial message couched in a good story, Ruff’s work is more ambitious but struggles under its own weight.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/05/09/... Lovecraft Country was not what I expected, but it was a good kind of different. I’ve never read Matt Ruff before and only know of him by his reputation of being a cult novelist, and perhaps I thought I was going to be in for a pulpy horror read, considering the title and the cover. It turned out to be all that, plus a lot more substance. Told in a series of interconnected short stories that form an overall bigger narrative, 4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/05/09/... Lovecraft Country was not what I expected, but it was a good kind of different. I’ve never read Matt Ruff before and only know of him by his reputation of being a cult novelist, and perhaps I thought I was going to be in for a pulpy horror read, considering the title and the cover. It turned out to be all that, plus a lot more substance. Told in a series of interconnected short stories that form an overall bigger narrative, much of this book takes place in the 1950s following the lives of several members of a black family who find themselves entangled with a cabal of sorcerers in “Lovecraft Country”—a term that has more to do with the rampant racism in that part of the US at the time, rather than the Lovecraftian horror subgenre. The novel begins with the title story. After serving his country, Atticus Turner returns home to Florida to find that his father Montrose has gone missing, prompting a road trip to Chicago to find out what happened. Soon, his journey brings him to New England with his uncle George and a childhood friend named Letitia. Together, they discover that Montrose has been captured and held prisoner by the Order of the Ancient Dawn, a secret society led by the enigmatic sorcerer named Samuel Braithwhite. Trapped at the estate, Atticus and his family are ultimately rescued by Braithwhite’s son, Caleb. It turns out, however, that Caleb may have his own agenda. Through the rest of the stories in book, we’re introduced to the other characters in Atticus’ extended family and circle of friends. Each section of the novel is a tale of a supernatural encounter with the Order of the Ancient Dawn or Caleb Braithwhite, who has remained in the shadows, hounding their every step. There are definitely plenty of Lovecraftian themes in this book, which is what initially led me to pick this up. But while the hallmarks of cosmic horror and paranormal elements abound, that’s not what really disturbed me. The thing you should know about Lovecraft Country is that it takes place in an era where racial segregation and Jim Crow laws are still very much alive, and Ruff’s depictions of the terrible ways African Americans were treated back then are as stomach-churning as you would expect. If the characters react pragmatically in the face of the supernatural horrors and cosmic creatures in this book, well, maybe that’s because the dangers they have to deal with in the real world are a lot worse in many ways. Violence and abuse fueled by racism, ignorance and hate is something that hangs over them every single moment of their lives, coming from monsters that are all too human. To be sure though, there are also strange events and unseen monsters lurking at every turn, and I thought Lovecraft Country was an intriguing, creative blend of pulp horror with social commentary. The speculative elements made this one a fun read, but the story also made me reflect upon the deeper themes the like identity and history, how both have a hand in shaping a society and the people who live in it. It’s a very “connected” novel, and I don’t simply mean the way it’s structured so that the book reads more like a collection of related short stories with multiple character arcs instead of just the one traditional plotline, because all the themes and ideas in the individual sections come together in the end to form a cohesive whole as well. Speaking of the structure though, I wasn’t expecting the short story format when I picked this up, and I admit I was initially thrown off by the frequent transitions. Even though this book is not your typical collection, it still has a few of the same issues, mainly that some stories are better than others. Not all of them captured my attention the same way and I fell into a lull with one or two, but that’s probably the only criticism I have for this book. As with most anthologies and collection-type books, not all the stories will have the same quality or appeal to me the same way. Audiobook comments: Finally, I want to mention that I listened to the audio edition of Lovecraft Country. It is narrated by Kevin Kenerly, who did a great job bringing the all the different characters to life. Though, it feels kind of like a missed opportunity that they didn’t get an additional reader or two on board, since multi-narrator productions are pretty common these days for anthology/short story collection audiobooks that feature stories with way more than just one central character. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed Kenerly’s excellent performance. If I had to do it all over again though, I might have opted for the print version, or even read/listened to the print/audio versions in tandem, because some of the stories in here definitely required more time to digest. Audiobooks are not exactly well suited to frequent pauses mid-chapter to reflect, but I still very much enjoyed my experience in this format.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ioana

    An absolutely visceral description of experienced racism, and a powerful allegory of institutional racism in the US, set in first half of the 20th century US. Also, a most impressive creative rendering and inversion of H. P. Lovecraft's (racist & misogynist) work. Lovecraft Country blew me away. I can't remember the last time I read a book that was so complex and so ... connected-each theme, each arc, each character so compelling in their own right, but also so clearly coherent and related t An absolutely visceral description of experienced racism, and a powerful allegory of institutional racism in the US, set in first half of the 20th century US. Also, a most impressive creative rendering and inversion of H. P. Lovecraft's (racist & misogynist) work. Lovecraft Country blew me away. I can't remember the last time I read a book that was so complex and so ... connected-each theme, each arc, each character so compelling in their own right, but also so clearly coherent and related to others in the context of the whole. This book gives new meaning to the adage, "the whole is larger than the sum of its parts". First, the characters are so empathetically drawn. And I don't mean sympathetically, which would imply pity or some other emotion that would be akin to a patronizing tone. I mean, we are drawn into their experiences through poignant descriptions of external events, not through an analysis of the characters' emotions, in such a way that we are called on to imagine their emotions. And, of course, this is itself an emotive, not purely cognitive experience. A more concrete example: the novel opens with a man, Atticus, driving home. He is stopped and harassed by a cop. He has to use a restroom but he is turned away from public ones reserved for whites, and so he takes a moment on the highway in the bushes. He then worries about which roads to take, because on some, he will certainly meet violence. He consults a publication he hangs on to for dear life, "The Safe Negro Travel Guide", to locate a place he can sleep the night, otherwise he will have to do so in his car. No preaching from Ruff, no philosophizing, but still, the reader is right there with/ as Atticus, and one can't help but feel the absolute despair/ anger at the injustice/ compliance/ resistance/ silencing effect of the situation. He's just trying to get home, what the hell... Second, the structure of Lovecraft Country is brilliant and works so well to both convey the story and to mirror its message. The novel consists of interconnected stories, all featuring the same cast of (~12) characters, the ancestors of a black family and of their previous white "owners". Each of these stories is fascinating in its own right, and offers a "twist" on Lovecraftian lore- there is metamorphposis (a potion that can turn a black person white), time-travel (to distant planets, on which blacks have been exiled), hunted houses (with ghosts "tamed" and befriended by a determined black woman who moves in and refuses to be deterred by ghosts from the past), nightmares that reflect past horrors not experienced by the dreamer but by his ancestors (lynchings), and more. Throughout it all, it soon becomes clear that the "monsters" Ruff conjures are only mirrors or incarnations of racism -both "personal" and institutionalized. The broader arc that ties these narratives together is the relationship between the characters, especially that between the ancestors of the slave-owners and of the former slaves. In true Lovecraftian style, there are lodges of power-hungry whites eager to use the black family (who are in fact descendants of the slave-owners as well as those of slaves) for their own ends. And, although in each story, it seems as if the black family only comes out unscathed due to the protection of one of these white men, in the end it is their prioritization of family and relationships that prevails, even over their patronizing "protector". So, as each vignette is a reflection of the particulars and manifestations of racism, the grander arc is an indictment of systemic racism. HIGHLY Recommended!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Apatt

    I have heard Lovecraft Country mentioned quite often recently, I think in connection to the impending TV series adaptation. The title alone intrigued me because I enjoy Lovecraft when he is at his best (at his worst, not so much) as my long-winded review of The Best of H.P. Lovecraft will attest. I thought Lovecraft Country is going to be a Lovecraft pastiche of some kind, with Cthulhu and friends driving people insane just by giving them a funny look. I peeked at the synopsis and I was surpri I have heard Lovecraft Country mentioned quite often recently, I think in connection to the impending TV series adaptation. The title alone intrigued me because I enjoy Lovecraft when he is at his best (at his worst, not so much) as my long-winded review of The Best of H.P. Lovecraft will attest. I thought Lovecraft Country is going to be a Lovecraft pastiche of some kind, with Cthulhu and friends driving people insane just by giving them a funny look. I peeked at the synopsis and I was surprised to find that the book is apparently about the adventures of some black characters during the Jim Crow era when racism in the US was in full swing. Having already decided to read the book I did not read the summary in detail, so I suspected that this may not even be primarily a novel of the fantasy/horror genre; perhaps it is more of an allegory of racism. As an SF/F/H nerd, I wanted the book to have its fair share of fantastical elements, not just be a work of historical fiction about racism in the 50s. The first fifty or so pages do read like mainstream fiction, a very vivid depiction of how a black man is treated by the police and most of the white Americans they come across. However, soon the overtly supernatural side of the narrative kicks in and genre fans should have nothing to complain about. As for the racism, it is always there in the background as another layer of difficulties faced by the central characters. The structure of the book also surprised me, I thought the entire novel was going to be centered on Atticus as the protagonist. This is not the case at all, Lovecraft Country is episodic in structure, with a different protagonist in most of the chapters. Each chapter has its own story arc with a dangling plot thread, these threads are tied together in the novel’s finale. The first chapter tells the story of Atticus’ journey to Ardham in search of his father, accompanied by his uncle and cousin. They encounter racists, red necks, monsters and lodges of sorcerers (who are also racists!). The second chapter concerns Atticus’ cousin, Letitia and her purchase of a haunted house in a racist neighborhood and how she copes like a champ. Her chapter reaches a surprising conclusion and the narrative switches to an entirely different story arc. Later chapters involve weird tech, aliens, shape shifting, more ghosts, monsters, sorcery, and wizards. Each chapter is fun to read, fast paced, thrilling and often funny. If you are looking for actual scares you may be disappointed though; this book is more boisterous supernatural high jinks than horror. On the other hand, there is never a dull moment. As for the more serious or “commentary” side of the novel, the shameless, overt racism as depicted is quite shocking. It is hard to believe that fellow human beings were treated with such disdain, hatred, and disrespect solely on the basis of their skin colour. That such unreasoning prejudice continues to exist today – albeit to a lesser degree - is dispiriting. My only reservation about this aspect of the book is that there is not one single decent white character in the narrative; this is less believable than the supernatural plotline. Personally, I don’t like novels that are purely allegorical, I feel that worthwhile novels should have sufficient entertaining value. Regardless of the seriousness of the themes, the storytelling side should not be neglected. I am happy with how Matt Ruff balances the themes and the supernatural adventures in Lovecraft Country. Both sides of the narrative are very well integrated and the book is both entertaining and thought-provoking. This is my first Matt Ruff book, I love his prose style, storytelling, and subtle humour; I will be back for more. Quotes: “You require me,” Atticus said. “To be your magic Negro?” “Ruby, curvy and dark, suggested a youthful Momma—but a Momma who could be pushed around. Her pliability wasn’t limitless, though, and there was a core of genuine Momma within her that could emerge, given time, like a mountain rising from the sea. The trick was getting what you wanted from her before you ran aground.” “Cartons containing the Spring 1955 edition of The Safe Negro Travel Guide were stacked up against the wall. George thumbed through a loose copy, inhaling fresh ink and wondering, as always, how much longer it would be before he could cease publication and change the name of the business to the plain old Berry Travel Agency. A few more years, probably.” Quotes from an interview with Matt Ruff at the back of the book: “But the real reason he’d keep running into monsters was because he was black, and when you’re black in America, there’s always a monster. Sometimes it’s Lovecraftian Elder Gods; sometimes it’s the police, or the Klan, or the Registrar of Voters.” “Lovecraft was tapping into these universal themes of horror that resonate even if you’re not a white supremacist. I wish he’d been a better person, or blessed with better mentors. But as a storyteller, I can still learn from him.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Sullivan

    Being a fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction means also having to face the uncomfortable truth that Lovecraft the man was an unabashed racist and xenophobe. Needless to say, I was thrilled to come across Lovecraft Country, which promised to confront this head on, employing Lovecraftian tropes as a vehicle for examining race and racism in 1950s America. It’s such an exciting premise, but it just didn’t deliver in quite the way that I had hoped. The story follows 22-year-old Atticus Turner and his famil Being a fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction means also having to face the uncomfortable truth that Lovecraft the man was an unabashed racist and xenophobe. Needless to say, I was thrilled to come across Lovecraft Country, which promised to confront this head on, employing Lovecraftian tropes as a vehicle for examining race and racism in 1950s America. It’s such an exciting premise, but it just didn’t deliver in quite the way that I had hoped. The story follows 22-year-old Atticus Turner and his family, who discover that they are inextricably linked to a secret organization that harnesses occult powers. Unfortunately, I had a hard time ever finding a rhythm. The book hops around to different narratives without enough focus on character development, which left me feeling disconnected and uninvested. Rather than fully exploring the many moral complexities at his disposal, Ruff instead delivers a convoluted plot that’s arguably more of an homage to Scooby Doo or The DaVinci Code than Lovecraft. I loved his idea of applying the cosmic existential dread at the heart of Lovecraft’s stories to the terror of being black in Jim Crow America, but the story lacked the awe and atmospheric tension that one would expect from a Lovecraft tribute. If I’m being honest, there really wasn’t any narrative tension at all. Such a great concept, but such lackluster execution. If I were rating it purely on the premise alone (and for that AMAZING cover art), it would be a 5-star book, but alas, a stellar premise does not make a great book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    I remember an early episode of "Supernatural", in which the Winchester brothers have to deal with a family of rednecks who hunt, torture and kill humans for sport. Dean finds a Masson jar filled with human teeth in their cottage, and he says something like: "Demons, I get. But this?! This is messed up!". I couldn't agree more with him: monsters and weird creatures from the beyond are scary, but their motivations are relatively easy to figure out: they want your blood, your soul or perhaps your s I remember an early episode of "Supernatural", in which the Winchester brothers have to deal with a family of rednecks who hunt, torture and kill humans for sport. Dean finds a Masson jar filled with human teeth in their cottage, and he says something like: "Demons, I get. But this?! This is messed up!". I couldn't agree more with him: monsters and weird creatures from the beyond are scary, but their motivations are relatively easy to figure out: they want your blood, your soul or perhaps your skull. Human cruelty, however, is something that completely defies my understanding. This might be what makes "Lovecraft Country" work as well as it does. We get the wonderful and spooky creature H.P. spawned with his mind, but we can also see them contrasted with some of the things humans did to each other and have to wonder: which is scarier? Which is worse? Which would I rather have to deal with? Atticus Turner is a veteran, freshly returned from Korea. He gets a cryptic message from his father Montrose, asking him to meet him in his hometown of Chicago because he found something about Atticus' mother's ancestry that he needs to tell him. But when Atticus gets to Chicago, his father has disappeared, leaving behind clues that he might be somewhere in New England. Together with his science-fiction loving uncle George and his childhood friend Letitia, Atticus decides to go find his father. George is the publisher of "The Safe Negro Travel Guide", a book listing gas stations, restaurants, hotels and shops across the country that will welcome black customers - because in the era of Jim Crow, the open American road is still not safe for everyone to travel. Atticus, George and Letitia follow Montrose's trail to the manor of Samuel Braithwhite, the leader of a strange group called the Order of the Ancient Dawn. It soon becomes obvious to Atticus that his father was merely bait: he is what these men wants, in order to fulfill an occult goal they have been working on for over a hundred years. It is a rare book that brings together the fun of pulp and the thought-provoking insight of a writer with a strong social consciousness. It's no secret that the more we dig up on dear Mr. Lovecraft, the more he turns out to have been a huge bigot; I know many fans of his work who don't really know how to process this, bringing up once again the age old debate of separating the individual from their body of work. Matt Ruff took what I've always loved about Lovecraftian horror and put it in a brand new light, by pairing them with more mundane horrors: the dangers of driving the roads when the police officers are hostile, the impossibility of buying and retaining property without risking your life, the enticing possibility of stepping through the looking-glass... Each chapter is a short story, but they only work as a continued narrative: each story focuses on one member of Atticus' family and how both the eldritch and day-to-day horrors of the world knock them about. This story takes place in an America that is not as far back in the rearview mirror as we would like to think and the characters are good, flawed people, frustrated by the daily injustices they struggle with. They have to summon a great deal of cleverness and determination to face the Order. It must be noted that Ruff is quite a sci-fi/fantasy erudite himself: right off from the beginning, there are references not only to Lovecraft, but to other amazing authors such as Bradbury, Heinlein, Stevenson and other masters. Just the sort of stuff to make a genre fiction lover such as myself feel all excited to keep reading. A lot of books about racial predjudices have made their way into my library lately. Am I reacting to the bigotted political climate that has been making headlines over the past few months? I don't know, but it is definitely something that is weighing on my mind these days. "Lovecraft Country" now sits next to my Octavia Butler books and just like her work, I can't recommend it enough. An eye-opening wink to a great story teller (who was not a very nice guy), beautifully executed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    While George busied himself in the kitchen, Atticus went out to the front parlor, which in childhood had served him as both library and reading room. The bookshelves were divided into his and hers, Aunt Hippolyta’s interests running primarily to science and natural history, with a smattering of Jane Austen. George gave a nod to respectable literature but reserved his deepest passion and most of his shelf space for the genres of pulp: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries and detective stories, hor While George busied himself in the kitchen, Atticus went out to the front parlor, which in childhood had served him as both library and reading room. The bookshelves were divided into his and hers, Aunt Hippolyta’s interests running primarily to science and natural history, with a smattering of Jane Austen. George gave a nod to respectable literature but reserved his deepest passion and most of his shelf space for the genres of pulp: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries and detective stories, horror and weird tales. Atticus’s shared devotion to these mostly white-authored genres had been a source of ongoing struggle with his father. George, as Montrose’s older brother, was largely immune to his scorn and could always tell him to keep his opinions to himself. Atticus didn’t have that privilege. If his father was in a mood to debate his tastes in reading, he had no choice but to oblige him. There was usually plenty to argue about. Edgar Rice Burroughs, for example, offered a wealth of critical fodder with his Tarzan stories (was it even necessary to list all the problems Montrose had with Tarzan, starting with the very idea of him?), or his Barsoom series, whose protagonist John Carter had been a captain in the Army of Northern Virginia before becoming a Martian warlord. “A Confederate officer?” Atticus’s father had said, appalled. “That’s the hero?” When Atticus tried to suggest it wasn’t that bad since technically John Carter was an ex-Confederate, his father scoffed: “Ex-Confederate? What’s that, like an ex-Nazi? The man fought for slavery! You don’t get to put an ‘ex-’ in front of that!” Montrose could have simply forbidden him to read such things. Atticus knew other sons whose fathers had done that, who’d thrown their comic books and Amazing Stories collections into the trash. But Montrose, with limited exceptions, didn’t believe in book-banning. He always insisted he just wanted Atticus to think about what he read, rather than imbibing it mindlessly, and Atticus, if he were being honest, had to admit that was a reasonable goal. But if it was fair to acknowledge his father’s good intentions, it also seemed fair to point out that his father was a belligerent man who enjoyed having cause to pick on him. Uncle George wasn’t much help. “It’s not as if your father’s wrong,” he said one time when Atticus was complaining. “But you love these stories!” Atticus said. “You love them as much as I do!” “I do love them,” George agreed. “But stories are like people, Atticus. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You try to cherish their virtues and overlook their flaws. The flaws are still there, though.” “But you don’t get mad. Not like Pop does.” “No, that’s true, I don’t get mad. Not at stories. They do disappoint me sometimes.” He looked at the shelves. “Sometimes, they stab me in the heart.” 4 stars

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Roberts

    Okay, I loved "The Mirage" so much that I bought this book in hardback and was really looking forward to it. The fact that this novel had received almost unanimous praise made me more excited and it is obviously Ruff reacting to the controversy over a bust of Lovecraft being given at the World Fantasy Awards, even to writers of color, despite the fact that Lovecraft was a vile racist who even had people in his life, including his wife, break ties with him over his racism in the 1920s. I was disa Okay, I loved "The Mirage" so much that I bought this book in hardback and was really looking forward to it. The fact that this novel had received almost unanimous praise made me more excited and it is obviously Ruff reacting to the controversy over a bust of Lovecraft being given at the World Fantasy Awards, even to writers of color, despite the fact that Lovecraft was a vile racist who even had people in his life, including his wife, break ties with him over his racism in the 1920s. I was disappointed in the novel almost at once, with the first thing to really rankle me occurring about 40 pages in. By the halfway point I started outright hating it. Even about three hundred pages in I still was thinking about giving it two stars but the ending was so lazy that I just couldn't. I hated this novel. To paraphrase Roger Ebert in his review of the movie North, I hated, hated, hated this novel. I think a lot of people who have read this so far are among Ruff's cult audience, it's still only in hardback after all, and therefore the reviews are bound to lean toward the positive. The only negative reviews I see are those from people who are fans of Lovecraft so that is the first thing I will deal with. The second thing I will deal with is how the novel fails as a social commentary on racism in America. Finally, I will deal with the problems with the storytelling itself, some of which have been problems in Ruff's other books but seem worse here because of all the other failures. I feel obligated to give a very lengthy review here because this book is getting so much praise, and because I think it is important to understand why what Ruff did is such a misfire. Okay, first off I am not a Lovecraft fan. My opinions of him is that he is overrated in the extreme, having borrowed most of what was interesting about his work from Algernon Blackwood. His "mythos" is his contribution to horror and a huge number of writers have reworked these ideas over the years, most of them making them better because Lovecraft's work is not just racist, but uses his racism as fodder for metaphors within his work. Some Lovecraft fans are hating this book merely because it calls out their idol but there are a lot of negative reviews I am reading from people who love Lovecraft but still wanted to read a novel that satirized the racism in his work. Ruff lets us all down on this score. It isn't like Lovecraft was a guy who was privately racist but wrote great horror fiction, this is a guy whose work is brimming with horrible descriptions of people of color as savages lacking in all intellect and a pretty obvious anti-Semitic conspiracy theory running throughout the subtext. There have been quite a few great Lovecraft pastiches out there. Two of my favorites are Michael Chabon's The Black Mill and Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald. Go read those to see how it is done. People who read this as a Lovecraft homage probably have never read Lovecraft. This book just references Lovecraft. This might have been fine if Ruff didn't put the author's name in the damn title. It comes off as misleading. I would dismiss it as a bit of trolling if the point was to piss off racist Lovecraft fans, which it might have been, but those people are definitely a small minority. What makes this so infuriating is that there was a great satire just sitting there in the premise of what Ruff seems to be proposing and he ignores it altogether. Ruff is not a great prose stylist but it comes off like he didn't even try. His characters even make references a few times to the idea that Lovecraft's work could be used as an allegory about racism, but he seems to think that this is not worth pursuing beyond a few one-liners. This by itself is the least of this book's problems. I'm just bringing it up because all the other people who have brought it up and saying I agree. This is not the book for you if you are looking for a critique of Lovecraft's racism, or racism in speculative fiction in general. It isn't what this work is interested in, which would have been fine if what it presented instead was any good at all. Okay, so what it wants to be is an insightful look at race in America. Oh boy, where to start! First off, Matt Ruff is white. So the first question he should have asked himself was if he was well suited to telling this story, or even if it was his story to tell in the first place. I'll give you an example. There is a great Joe Landsdale short story called "The Night They Missed The Horror Show." It takes place in Texas in 1968. Two teenage rednecks leave a screening of Night of the Living Dead because they are angry the lead is black. On the way home they see a black member of their high school football team about to be lynched. They save him, not because they like him, but because they want to win the championship. Then throughout the rest of the story they get a firsthand look at the worst racism has to offer. That story is a great satire and it is framed in a way Landsdale doesn't trample on black voices telling their own stories. The story has its detractors, its gratuitous use of the N-word is criticized a lot, but that is a different issue. If Ruff had wanted to write an empowerment fantasy, like Django Unchained, where a black man gets to be a hero in a racist genre I would have been fine with that too. It isn't the subject matter that I object to, its the approach, and the approach here is that Ruff wants to tell you what it was like to be black in America in a time before he was born. He no doubt sees himself writing to a mostly white audience, but those readers should be directed to black writers to tell them about such things. As some others have done I would suggest Walter Mosley who has written literary, crime and science fiction. You could also read Octavia Butler for sci-fi, or any number of other black writers. Black writers exist, we don't need white writers to tell us about their experiences. The problem with Ruff's approach get tangled up in his storytelling problems in general. In the beginning of the book we see encounters with racist law officers, but anybody who has been reading books has seen this before. I've seen a few people complain that there are no good white people in this book, as white people are wont to do, but the real problem is that the racism in the book is if anything cartoonish. Also, the black characters go from being terrified of racist whites to shrugging it off without a second thought. Once again, if Ruff was just writing an empowerment fantasy that would be fine, but he fluctuates back and forth between that and an attempt to write nuanced and realist portrayals of racism. The few times Ruff gets close to what could have worked in this book, using horror tropes as a metaphor for racism. Take for instance the subplot about the haunted house in a white neighborhood. Ruff contrasts the issue of black buyers being run out of white neighborhoods after purchasing a house with the haunted house story. This is the kind of thing that was done by Rusty Cundieff in his film "Tales From the Hood" a horror anthology. Once again, this is the kind of thing best handled by black writers like Mr. Cundieff but Ruff could have pulled that one off. In fact, I think that subplot is the closest the book gets to a success. The second time he does this is a failure though, and I don't think Ruff realizes what he did here. The novel's villain, who is named Braithwhite, gives a black woman a potion that turns her into a white woman. There are a lot of ways to explore this that the novel is too timid to deal with but the main reason this subplot fails is that in real life black people did this all the time. Living as a black person was so horrific in pre-civil rights America that light-skinned blacks passed for white and even left friends and family behind. This has been written about many times, once again, by BLACK WRITERS. If your metaphor is actually less interesting and potent than real life then you have obviously failed. Many people have also mentioned the structure of the novel as a shortcoming. Some have even said that the novel is a series of short stories. This is false. None of the chapters would work on their own. They all rely in the other segments in order to work. However, the reason the novel feels this way is because it neither has a plot nor do any of the characters have much of an arc. In the beginning the black characters get wrapped up with the plots of a white magician and in the end they manage to get rid of him. None of the characters goes through any major change throughout this book. They don't learn anything about themselves. Why should they though because Ruff wants to just teach white people about racism? The most developed character in the novel is Letitia. A way you can tell if a character is well developed is to describe them without mentioning what they look like or their occupation. Laetitia is a woman of faith, headstrong, brave, smart and thinks for herself even when society tries to grind her down. In short, she is a badass. She is a type, but she is our most developed character easily. She would be the perfect character to be the lead in an empowerment fantasy if Ruff had chosen to go that way. The place for an arc to be in this story is the father-son relationship between Atticus and Montrose. The novel establishes in the beginning that the two have very different views and clash a lot. Though we learn Montrose's backstory, this never really gets explored much. A really shocking scene is when we see Montrose slap a black kid he doesn't even know for violating his personal beliefs on how black people should act. Did Ruff not realize how wrongheaded that scene was at its very core? The book treats this as if it is a little quirk that Montrose has displayed when really it reflects badly on the character and comes off like the author lecturing black people. I could keep going on and on but I won't. I will mention two quick things. The first is though the novel mentions it a few times sexism is rarely seen in this book, even though it takes place in an era where sexism was as acceptable as racism. This would be a minor quibble if anything else in the book worked, but the fact that Ruff took the time to deal with homophobia in The Mirage, even though it was not directly what the book was about, made this standout to me. The second thing is that the ending is abrupt and unearned. This is just a huge miscalculation of a book. It kind of makes me want to go back and lower the scores on other Ruff novels I have read to be honest.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    "Lovecraft Country" was the genre mashup I didn't know I needed, but I assure you, I very much needed it. It's basically "Devil in a Blue Dress" meets H.P. Lovecraft. At first blush that would seem an odd pairing but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. What is at the core of the fear in Lovecraft? The other, separateness, and (honestly) racism. Well, 1950's America was the last bastion of legal (and illegal) racism in America and a very tough time to be an African-American. Much lik "Lovecraft Country" was the genre mashup I didn't know I needed, but I assure you, I very much needed it. It's basically "Devil in a Blue Dress" meets H.P. Lovecraft. At first blush that would seem an odd pairing but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. What is at the core of the fear in Lovecraft? The other, separateness, and (honestly) racism. Well, 1950's America was the last bastion of legal (and illegal) racism in America and a very tough time to be an African-American. Much like all other times. The characters in this book get caught up in Lovecraftian schemes from inter dimensional travel, to haunted houses, to secret societies, but what makes this volume stand apart is where the danger comes from. The Lovecraft horrors aren't what's scary. Racist White people attempting to use said horrors are. "Lovecraft Country" masterfully straddled the line of dealing with supremely important issues but never forgetting that it's most important job is to entertain. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. This one will stick with me a long time. A must read eye opener for anyone who ever mentions "the good old days" without acknowledging that they weren't good for everyone...and still aren't.

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Devlin

    Long time lover of HP, so this book started out intriguing with what seemed to be a black take on Shadow over Innsmouth(A fantastic story). Initially, I was concerned that the parallels were too tightly drawn, but the story breaks away from the Lovecraft association fairly quickly. This is where the problems begin. The whole story's arc is an on the nose illustration of how much blacks have suffered at the hands of whites. Almost every opportunity is taken to cast a white person in a racist light Long time lover of HP, so this book started out intriguing with what seemed to be a black take on Shadow over Innsmouth(A fantastic story). Initially, I was concerned that the parallels were too tightly drawn, but the story breaks away from the Lovecraft association fairly quickly. This is where the problems begin. The whole story's arc is an on the nose illustration of how much blacks have suffered at the hands of whites. Almost every opportunity is taken to cast a white person in a racist light. This is a novel, and as such, sending such a message in klieg lights is ham handed at best. While I can't know what it was like to be black in the 50's or earlier, I have read many black authors and none of them describe the US in such starkly colored/white terms. Walter Mosley's fine Ez Rawlins series comes to mind as just one example of the nuanced white/black landscape in the post war years. Back to the story where the novel veers from one character and sub plot to another with little to hold the strands together. The introduction of magic barely strikes an introspective moment for any of the characters, who simply accept such fey goings-on with little more than a shrug, and finally the ending is rather anti-climatic. This book left me wondering why it was published.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This is a bit of a white lie because I really only read the first 100 pages and was satisfied. But if you want to explore Lovecraftian tropes in the Jim Crow south (and you do! You just don't know it yet) this is a good read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    Werewolves don’t scare me. Neither do the walking dead (zombies), Voldemort, body-snatchers, Chuckie, Jason or Freddie. People who have lost or buried or under-developed their empathy. Who see black and brown and female and trans bodies as things to be used, or scorned or destroyed. Those are the true monsters. Reading Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country isn’t just a look at the bigotry of the past. Jim Crow isn’t dead. He just got a new suit, had a makeover. Now he wears thousand-dollar suits, has a Werewolves don’t scare me. Neither do the walking dead (zombies), Voldemort, body-snatchers, Chuckie, Jason or Freddie. People who have lost or buried or under-developed their empathy. Who see black and brown and female and trans bodies as things to be used, or scorned or destroyed. Those are the true monsters. Reading Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country isn’t just a look at the bigotry of the past. Jim Crow isn’t dead. He just got a new suit, had a makeover. Now he wears thousand-dollar suits, has a chic hair cut, and calls himself James Corvid. Ruff’s novel is loosely structured as a linked short story collection. It follows the Turners, a black middle class family in Chicago and their dealings with a white male sorcerer who wants to control an occult empire. Secret societies, inter-dimensional travel, eidolons, cosmic horrors, possessed dolls and body-thievery all appear in these tales, intertwined with the mundane horrors of life under the heel of racism. Ruff does imbue the narrative with a sense of wonder. The appearance of Lovecraftian menagerie didn’t terrify me. It was thrilling and exciting and magical. But the big bad, Caleb Braithwaite, he was horrifying. He was a literal personification of Jim Crow--or, rather, James Corvid. Braithwaite, like Corvid, is outwardly handsome and charming. But he is determined to uphold his superiority, and uses (black) as pawns in his narcissistic game. He is the monster. Like the Ballad of Black Tom (LaValle), LC directly challenges the undercurrent of white supremacy that undergrids H.P.’s fiction.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    What a great premise! Matt Ruff is on to something that's definitely needed. But this isn't it (or at least what I was hoping for; admittedly I came at this with high hopes - not very Lovecraftian!). What we needed was a Lovecraftian story that directly takes on and subverts that author's vehemently racist views - a kind of magical ritual to exorcise the genre of the most troubling element of Lovecraft's fiction (or at least call forth its tentacled mass for an autopsy). What we get is a book th What a great premise! Matt Ruff is on to something that's definitely needed. But this isn't it (or at least what I was hoping for; admittedly I came at this with high hopes - not very Lovecraftian!). What we needed was a Lovecraftian story that directly takes on and subverts that author's vehemently racist views - a kind of magical ritual to exorcise the genre of the most troubling element of Lovecraft's fiction (or at least call forth its tentacled mass for an autopsy). What we get is a book that does provide some powerful looks at racism, but does so in a simple, morally uncomplicated way, while also failing (possibly intentionally?) to present any actual Lovecraftian horror beyond a light superficially pulpy set dressing. This is a shame, because some of the themes underlying Lovecraft's tales - existential alienation, dread - might be also be interestingly tied into the experience of living in/being trapped in a racist society. The book gets part of it right - it does take on Jim Crow era racism (in the South and North) and puts the reader in the proper state of paranoia and dread African Americans must have felt (and still feel on occasion) knowing they can be stopped and lose control of their lives at any moment. So here is the dread - not in a sublime, existential-crisis-inspiring creature, but in navigating a world where you know everything can be taken from you at any moment on the slightest of pretenses (or no pretense at all). So this could be the point - that there's nothing to fear from the supernatural, and that these elements are intentionally toned down to show that the real horror, the real dread, is all around us. But, I don't think that's the intent, and even if that's the case, the book unnecessarily wastes an opportunity to actually thoughtfully explore Lovecraftian horror by both spending a lot of time on it and dismissing it. There's never any sense of awe, dread, or even danger from the supernatural elements - the black protagonists are constantly being put into and then rescued from precarious situations by white deus ex machinas (or their ghosts!). The protagonists, drawn from two black families, aren't allowed much agency and they never seem to face any repercussions from their encounters with the supernatural or racism - no one dies or changes drastically (which is one of the powerful and disturbing elements of Lovecraft - no one gets away unscathed). For example, a character is shot in front of his son before they can reconcile - a potentially powerful moment that's wasted when the bullet is magically stopped. Characters are also constantly being threatened with jail, harm, and death but are rescued by chance, magic, or unlikely plot contrivances at the last minute. Besides the father and son, the main protagonists don't experience much conflict with each other - and the conflicts they do have are all morally easy to navigate since they are mostly with clearly evil/misguided/corrupted white people; the exception being a genuinely creepy episode that follows a woman, Ruby, who is tempted to work for a white occultist who controls her by offering doses of a potion that will turn her white for limited times. Overall, I was hoping for something a little more complicated and engaging, and maybe even a little bit disturbing (plenty of opportunities for that when dealing with racism and supernatural horror.) But Lovecraft Country was, for the most part, a weird (not Weird) and unsatisfying mash of light pulpy adventure (with no real consequences), mixed in with occasional harrowing and weighty examples of racism (also with no real consequences).

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elle Maruska

    I really wish I could've like this book more than I did. The concept was really interesting and the characters were very interesting as well. But I feel like this story wasn't the author's to tell; it made me incredibly uncomfortable to read a white man speaking through black characters about being black in the 1950s. I respect books that feature diverse characters but there's a difference between telling a story with black characters and telling a story about being black; white authors can and I really wish I could've like this book more than I did. The concept was really interesting and the characters were very interesting as well. But I feel like this story wasn't the author's to tell; it made me incredibly uncomfortable to read a white man speaking through black characters about being black in the 1950s. I respect books that feature diverse characters but there's a difference between telling a story with black characters and telling a story about being black; white authors can and should do the former but the latter? I don't feel right about it. As for the story itself, there were many fascinating aspects but I felt overall it read as far too disjointed; I also felt too much was accomplished far too quickly and with very little effort or cost. I feel like it read as rough and unfinished. Also the title seemed less about the content of the book than an overarching concept that the author didn't really succeed in imparting. This was my first book by this author and I'm not certain I'd read another.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mattia Ravasi

    Video-review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dvqn-... Featured in my Top 20 Books I Read in 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X6OQ... Perfectly balanced between short story collection and novel, Lovecraft Country manages to innovate on the Lovecraftian genre while being 150% faithful to the source material. A beautiful and a bit heartbreaking tale on racism in 1950s America, where you don't need to summon the devil to face unspeakable horrors.

  23. 5 out of 5

    apollohoenian

    i picked up this book believing it would be a fun halloween read but i did not expect it to be SO WOKE instead of lovecraftian horrors this book deals with something way scarier than any monsters could ever be: White Supremacy istg this book was So Good 100% would recommend you all should read this it was brilliant (see in times like these i wish i were more eloquent and could write a better review but my words sadly fail me u just have to take my word for it its a rlly good book,,,, ;A; )

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shaun Hutchinson

    Tackling racism in and through the works of HP Lovecraft. Lovecraft himself would have hated this, but I absolutely loved it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    This was a great book so many reasons. First off I really liked the choice of setting for the book. The story revolves around a group of African-Americans in the 1950's who get drawn into the (white) world of arcane secret societies very much against their will. In addition to having to deal with Jim Crow and the pervasive racism of America at the time they must also contend with the supernatural. They become unwilling pawns of a power struggle between rival "natural philosophers" and must do wha This was a great book so many reasons. First off I really liked the choice of setting for the book. The story revolves around a group of African-Americans in the 1950's who get drawn into the (white) world of arcane secret societies very much against their will. In addition to having to deal with Jim Crow and the pervasive racism of America at the time they must also contend with the supernatural. They become unwilling pawns of a power struggle between rival "natural philosophers" and must do what they can just to survive the conflict. Ruff does a great job of subtly paralleling the mundane dangers they face with the supernatural, each present their own unique challenges. I thought Ruff did an excellent job of structuring the story as well. Each chapter is really a small, self contained story of varying lengths that connects to the other stories through common characters and events, but allows different characters to come to the forefront. This keeps the stories fresh and provide the reader with a wealth of different perspectives on the mundane and supernatural. It also allows for more developed characters as the reader can observe them from multiple angle. All in all this choice struck me as very conducive to a fast paced but well proportioned story telling. Finally the story was really excellent. Ruff deftly mixed elements of supernatural horror with the more mundane horror of racism will populating the story with fascinating, complex characters. It was a tough book to put down because it was so exciting, but also a book that could be put down since each chapters was nicely self contained. The book read quickly because of the smooth writing, perfectly paced story, and compelling narrative. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    Still thinking of star rating here so that will just come later. For now: If you're thinking this is going to be Lovecraft redux, you seriously have another thing coming. While his own particular brand of racism was horrific in itself, anything that Lovecraft produced in his fiction is dwarfed here by the real-life terror that the characters in this book experience in their daily lives in Jim Crow America of the 1950s, and that little yellow, starry-looking thing on the cover that says "America's Still thinking of star rating here so that will just come later. For now: If you're thinking this is going to be Lovecraft redux, you seriously have another thing coming. While his own particular brand of racism was horrific in itself, anything that Lovecraft produced in his fiction is dwarfed here by the real-life terror that the characters in this book experience in their daily lives in Jim Crow America of the 1950s, and that little yellow, starry-looking thing on the cover that says "America's DEMONS Exposed" certainly isn't just there to add to the cover art. The way Ruff sets up this book is clever -- as he notes in an interview at The Seattle Review of Books, his idea was to start with "classic story" ideas "... like, somebody buys a haunted house or somebody finds themselves being chased by an animated doll" and with that, he asks himself the questions of "how does this happen to my protagonist and how does having a black protagonist change the nature of the story?" The way that Mr. Ruff has brought out his story here is very nicely done, and the little "mini-adventures" do, as he also notes in the same interview, turn out to be each character's "own weird tale." Some of these are much better than others but each story added to a wider picture of Jim Crow practices of this time, things that, as any sane person would realize, were just horrific and inhuman. At the same time, there's a very real sense of empowerment that comes from the characters in each story in some fashion, as they fight back as best they can, each in his or her own way. Speaking of weird tales/pulpy/horrorish tropes here, Ruff obviously went well beyond Lovecraft in framing his tales -- HG Wells, Ray Bradbury, Robert Louis Stevenson and many more authors find their way into this book as well. I have to say that on the whole, I liked this book, didn't love it and maybe that's not entirely the author's fault. Not too far into it, I was reminded in a very big way of what Victor LaValle had done with his excellent The Ballad of Black Tom, which uses Lovecraft's own work "The Horror at Red Hook," to turn Lovecraft's particularly nasty brand of racism on its own head, so (and I hate that this happens, but I can't help it), there was already a comparison at work in my head. Frankly, when it comes right down to it, LaValle's book, in my opinion, is the better of the two, since LaValle is hands down, no question, the better writer. Having said that though, I don't mean that readers won't like this one -- there are plenty of reasons to recommend Lovecraft Country to anyone, especially since it's seems to be sadly pertinent to our own times. http://www.oddlyweirdfiction.com/2017...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mindi

    Yassss. So good. Matt Ruff has written a very Lovecraftian novel that explores what it's like to be an African American science fiction fan in 1950's Jim Crow America. Lovecraft would have hated it, and I'm fairly certain his bones are doing backflips in his coffin right now. I often ask myself, can you truly separate art from the artist? H.P. Lovecraft was the master of weird tales, but he was also incredibly racist, misogynistic, and anti-semitic. Damn, that man could write a story, but in real Yassss. So good. Matt Ruff has written a very Lovecraftian novel that explores what it's like to be an African American science fiction fan in 1950's Jim Crow America. Lovecraft would have hated it, and I'm fairly certain his bones are doing backflips in his coffin right now. I often ask myself, can you truly separate art from the artist? H.P. Lovecraft was the master of weird tales, but he was also incredibly racist, misogynistic, and anti-semitic. Damn, that man could write a story, but in real life he was a crappy human being. Is it possible to love Lovecraft's tales, in spite of his narrow-minded beliefs? Essentially, I think the answer is "not entirely..." Every time I read Lovecraft I think about his intolerance. It's like a stain on his brilliance that no one can ever really rub off. Lovecraft Country is a series of interconnected short stories that revolve around the protagonist, Atticus Turner and his family in 1954 Chicago. The Turners encounter a malevolent group of wizards, and things just get weirder from there. Juxtaposed against the science fiction elements of the story are the very real horrors of Jim Crow America. The real monsters are the racist and intolerant people that the Turners face on a daily basis. The parts of the story that are based on real history are more chilling than any monster that Lovecraft or Ruff could ever create. America has come a long way since Jim Crow, but we still have a lot of work to do. Racism and intolerance is still a serious problem. Writers like Ruff contribute to making society more tolerant with stories like these. A lot of younger people today don't really know what life was like for people of color during the 1950's. Lovecraft Country is a chilling reminder of the intolerance that people can suffer, but it's also an incredibly exciting and ultimately satisfying read. This book simultaneously pays homage and gives the finger to the master of horror and weird fiction. That sounds strange, but it's oddly fitting.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ctgt

    8/10 This is a series of connected stories that all involve the Turner family. Set in the fifties in Chicago, the stories jump from family member to family member as they encounter strange happenings from a haunted house, to a missing father. The Braithewhite family and the Order of the Ancient Dawn are the connecting thread throughout the book. Seems the Braithewhites and the Turners have a bit of an ancestral common ground. The interesting twist the author throws in...the Turners are an African 8/10 This is a series of connected stories that all involve the Turner family. Set in the fifties in Chicago, the stories jump from family member to family member as they encounter strange happenings from a haunted house, to a missing father. The Braithewhite family and the Order of the Ancient Dawn are the connecting thread throughout the book. Seems the Braithewhites and the Turners have a bit of an ancestral common ground. The interesting twist the author throws in...the Turners are an African American family. The combination of the constant threat of the Jim Crow mindset with the weird doings of the Order of the Ancient Dawn made a compelling read. The Lovecraft influence is in place but is more of an loose reference point as opposed to an outright rehashing of the original. Another side note is the use of an African American POV in this type of story when thought about in conjunction with Lovecraft and his flaming racism.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sh3llraiser (grumpybookgrrrl)

    Putting this aside to maybe try later at about 23%. I feel like this could be told in half the pages. It's not bad by any means. I'm just not in the mood for meandering, takes until the end to get there plots... :/ Previous post: This looks really interesting, has great reviews, and is only $0.99 today (September 17, 2017) on Kindle.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Executive Summary: I'm not really a big fan of horror, but I enjoyed this book. It's the type of horror I do tend to enjoy. The blend of historic fiction and the supernatural really worked for me. Full Review A lot of the early comments I saw about this book said how the characters in this book and the observations on life under Jim Crow were the best part, but the supernatural elements were a detriment to the book. While I can agree to the first point, I disagree about the second. It just goes t Executive Summary: I'm not really a big fan of horror, but I enjoyed this book. It's the type of horror I do tend to enjoy. The blend of historic fiction and the supernatural really worked for me. Full Review A lot of the early comments I saw about this book said how the characters in this book and the observations on life under Jim Crow were the best part, but the supernatural elements were a detriment to the book. While I can agree to the first point, I disagree about the second. It just goes to show not every book works for everyone in the same ways. This book reminds me a bit of Get Out, in that the real horror doesn't come from the supernatural elements, but the awful way that people treat each other. I thought all the characters were fantastic. I'm hard pressed to decide who I liked the best. The female characters were the most enjoyable. I think I liked Hippolyta the best. I enjoyed her parts of the story a lot. However I thought the two sisters Letitia and Ruby also had great parts. And on the male side I liked Hippolyta's husband George and their son Horace a lot as well. But I also really liked the world building. I've always been a fan of the secret history trope. Secret societies with magical power and influence over everything is not exactly new, but it takes on an even more sinister aspect in this book. I should mention the story kind of jumps all over the place at times. There are a lot of sub plots going on, but they all tie-back in to each other by the end, and I actually liked the format of this. Overall, I thought this was a really good book and I'm glad I picked it up. I liked it a lot better than I expected, especially after seeing so many neutral to negative reactions to the book from most of the early reactions I saw to our book club read for this. I suspect this book won't be for everyone, but if you liked Get Out, this seems like a story in a similar vein. I'm looking forward to checking out the TV adaptation, especially since Jordan Peele is attached to the project.

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