Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Herbert West: Reanimator (H.P. Lovecraft, 1922)

To be honest, this story requires little discussion aside from the fact that it is such an odd Lovecraft story. Fans of HPL will typically know him as a writer of either supernatural horror, or alien horror. Herbert West: Reanimator is a purely science thriller/horror story which was apparently first published in a humor magazine. It is quite funny at times while still maintaining the ghastliness we attribute to HPL's typical fiction. Author Jonathan L. Howard (of Johannes Cabal fame) mentioned on Twitter, "they're terrific little stories, aren't they? The only really 'populist' horror Lovecraft wrote, full of energy."

Another odd thing about this story is that it is typically shunned by both Lovecraft and many Lovecraft enthusiasts. Its lack of "mythos" ties may be a contributing factor as well as the more straightforwardness of the tale. The humor is veiled, yet present, and mostly pokes fun at West as a mad scientist trope. He is even more-so today, 90 years after the story's original publication. Horror enthusiasts will see all the twists coming, but Lovecraft is still able to make the reveal more artfully than many of his imitators.

One thing I will warn you about is the quite blatant racism in at least one section of the story. Reanimator director Stuart Gordon mentioned in an interview on the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast that this was the one part of the story he deliberately avoided. This is always a problem with older pulp literature, and Lovecraft is rather infamous for his attitudes towards non-Anglo-Saxons. Jim Thompson, Dennis Wheatley and Sax Rohmer are similarly difficult, but here Lovecraft is particularly harsh in one section.

If you have not read the story, it is available online from, or in Mobi/PRC format from my web page. I do not enjoy reading without pages (even if they are virtual) so used the text from to create an ebook. My Lovecraft ebooks page here. I will be converting more as time goes on. Currently this and The Shadow Over Innsmouth are there.

The cover image I used is a painting by Javier Garcia UreƱa, to which I added title text.


Shon Richards said...

What was really funny to me is that Herbert never gets it right but dang if he doesn't keep trying to animate the dead. He is the Wile Coyote of horror.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Super Genius :-) The bit with the salesman is great. You know what is up, but HPL leads you along so nicely.

T. Roger Thomas said...

I've never really gotten into his writing and I'm not sold based on reading this.

Darius Whiteplume said...

Lovecraft can be a weird read. Some of them I have read a few times and find I missed things. He's not for everyone :-)

Alex Jowski said...

This is one of the most enjoyable Lovecraft works. It's no "Rats in the Walls" but damn its still good.

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