At the Mountains of Madness

I finished the novel At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft a little over a week ago.  I would love to discuss this book.  No one that I know has read it.  I’ve asked friends, students in my art classes, and family members.  Because I can find no one to talk to about it, I feel compelled to write a post about it hoping that someone will comment or contact me and want to talk about At the Mountains of Madness.

I did not have much to go on when I ordered this book.  I think there was a sentence or two about explorers on the continent of Antarctica unearth an unspeakable evil.  That could mean anything in the horror, science fiction genre.

When reading a review about the movie “Color Out of Space” based on another work by H.P. Lovecraft, the author of the review had stated that the director Guillermo del Toro loves the book At the Mountains of Madness so much that he wants to make it into a movie.  I do not have such strong feelings about the book.  In fact, there are a couple of things that really bother me.

Some of my less than enthusiastic response may have to do with this being my first introduction to the writing of H.P. Lovecraft.  On occasion I found his writing to be archaic, even for the period of time he was writing in.  There were allusions to other books Lovecraft had written.  I think that if I had read the book about the Cthulhu or the Necronomicon, I may have had better appreciation for the horrors that the protagonist experienced.

At the time this novel was published, 1936, we did not have as accurate maps of large parts of the planet.  Antarctica was one of these areas of the world.  So the expedition to explore and track the geology and geography of Antarctica would be a very real expedition for that time.  However, knowing what is known of the geography of the continent today, I was simply unable to suspend my system of disbelief and accept the authors premise of a mountain range higher than the Himalayas on the continent of Antarctica.  This is a small thing but it bothered me.

I have never been a fan of technique of telling a story from the point of view that the protagonist has already survived and is now recounting what he experienced.  To me it is much scarier, if as the reader, I am participating in events as they are happening to the protagonist.  Not as an after the fact recounting.  It takes the edge off knowing that the individual survived.  The horror doesn’t get him because he is telling the story in past tense.

I acknowledge that there is a lot of mystery surrounding the continent of Antarctica.  There is so much about that place of ice and cold that we do not know.  There are theories about tunnels and pockets of life that were trapped and developed independently under the ice.  Scientists are learning new things about our planet all the time, why should the continent of Antarctica be any different.

Although I did not find At the Mountains of Madness to be scary, it was dense with dread.  I imagine a movie version of the book could be very intense and scary.  I would be very excited to see a film version of At the Mountains of Madness directed by Guillermo del Toro.

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