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The Private Life of Elder Things

3.5 (1983)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Private Life of Elder Things.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Adrian Tchaikovsky(Author) Keris McDonald(Author) Adam Gauntlett(Author)

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From the wastes of the sea to the shadows of our own cities, we are not alone. But what happens where the human world touches the domain of races ancient and alien?Museum curators, surveyors, police officers, archaeologists, mathematicians; from derelict buildings to country houses to the London Underground, another world is just a breath away, around the corner, watching and waiting for you to step into its power.The Private Life of Elder Things is a collection of new Lovecraftian fiction about confronting, discovering and living alongside the creatures of the Mythos.

Adrian Tchaikovsky is the author of the acclaimed Shadows of the Apt fantasy series and the epic science fiction blockbuster "Children of Time". He has been nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Award and a British Fantasy Society Award. In civilian life he is a lawyer, gamer and amateur entomologist.

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  • By Mike Chinn on 10 April 2017

    No matter what your opinion of HP Lovecraft, there’s no denying he wrote some of the most influential horror fiction of the 20th century. Indeed, during a recent visit to a nearby branch of a certain nationwide bookstore, I spotted two separate editions using the title The Call Of Cthulhu alongside many other collections of Lovecraft’s fiction. And that’s not including all the brand new, Mythos-inspired anthologies from a dazzling variety of authors. Like him or loathe him, for good or bad, the man and his works are here to stay.The Private Life Of Elder Things is a collection of Lovecraft inspired fiction from three top flight authors: Arthur C Clarke Award-winning Adrian Tchaikovsky, Keris McDonald, and Adam Gauntlett. But if you’re expecting tales from witch-haunted Arkham, scholars from Miskatonic University, forbidden – but oddly accessible – tomes of ancient lore, or overwrought, italicised climaxes (which Lovecraft’s imitators are a thousand times more guilty of than the man himself), you’ll be disappointed. These are modern tales – although their inspirations are clear – told in a manner far removed from the Pulp style of the originals.We jump right in with a tale of the Deep Ones (see what I did there?): Tchaikovsky’s “Donald”. The eponymous character is a queer fish (all right, I’ll stop now) who befriends the narrator. They are both passionate about marine life: Donald is a conservationist and activist, the narrator a taxonomist. Donald is able to supply many strange and unique aquatic specimens – even after his disappearance – although his reputation as a troublemaker is well-founded. With nods to “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, this turns the original on its head, making us question who the villains really are.Next up is Gauntlett’s “Pitter Patter”. Clearly taking his cue from “The Rats in the Walls”, the author ratchets up the horror in a dilapidated TA base. Dark, haunted (in ways you don’t expect), the old building is at the hub of some really unpleasant goings-on.McDonald’s “Special Needs Child” is another shocker, reminding me (albeit somewhat tangentially) of TED Klein’s “Children of the Kingdom”. Two cops save a baby which is born under very unusual circumstances. But then, it’s an unusual baby. Who grows into an unusually precocious child. The ending is as blackly humorous as it is grim.In “Irrational Numbers” (Tchaikovsky), genius mathematician Doctor Anne Rigolo discovers a set of pure maths which can solve the most obscure theorem – as long as it is transformed into Rigolo space. The only problem is, transforming the numbers back renders the solution meaningless. However, there are those who are interested in the Rigolo Transformation – beings that whisper unseen behind dark screens and don’t register on CCTV. Beings for whom transformation takes on an entirely new meaning.Gauntlett’s “New Build” takes us into the realms of the occult, ritual magic (with the obligatory mention of Crowley) and “The Hounds of Tindalos” (originally by Frank Belknap Long). An old pub is due for redevelopment, but the activity attracts the attention of someone – or something – murderous. I was tickled to read in the authors’ notes that the inspiration for the pub was the Princess Louise in Holborn: the scene of many a British Fantasy Society open night. Made me wonder where the smooth-walled, sealed room was, though.Towards the end of Lovecraft’s “At The Mountains of Madness”, Danforth – his mind crumbling as what remains of the Antarctic expedition flees down a tunnel – recites the names of subway stations. In “The Branch Line Repairman” Tchaikovsky takes this idea and runs with it: shoggoths hidden in Underground tube tunnels, as well as what remains of their masters. Shoggoths have always been the slave workforce, their malleable, plastic bodies reshaped for the task in hand; so it comes as no surprise when we discover how they form themselves this time.Next up is “Devo Nodenti” (McDonald), a touching story that mixes in dabs of humour (like a Night Gaunt named Eustace which the protagonist, ageing archaeologist Peggy, tends to treat as a dog – despite it being very catlike in its behaviour) without sacrificing its poignancy. In her youth, Peggy made a deal with a lord of the Dreamlands, Nodens (a genuine Celtic deity) and ever since she’s had to live with the consequences. Eustace is just a minor part.Tchaikovsky’s “Season of Sacrifice and Resurrection” uses Lovecraft’s body-swapping Great Race, the Yith, from “The Shadow Out of Time” in another poignant tale. For Kevin the sacrifice of the title is genuine, yet a source of pride. A quiet tale that belies the momentous events unfurling unseen. And I’m sure the title is a play on Keats’ famous first line from To Autumn.“Prospero and Caliban” by Gauntlett is, in my opinion, the weakest of the bunch. Another Dreamlands tale, it feels uncertain of itself: beginning in an extreme Sargasso Sea in the wake of the Great War, the Dreamland elements are introduced somewhat haphazardly, almost as afterthoughts. The city of Dylath-Leen, for example, is mentioned four times on the penultimate page, quite out of the blue.“Moving Targets” (Tchaikovsky) uses the Tillinghast resonator which appeared in HPL’s 1934 “From Beyond”. Small devices are turning up at Raves across an overcrowded sink estate. At first police think they’re just a new way of blowing minds – but the resonators aren’t just attracting the attention of the local plods. An excellent modern take on what is quite a minor Lovecraft tale.The final entry is McDonald’s “The Play’s the Thing”, and the least Lovecraftian (although HPL was fond of tossing in references to works by authors he admired, so it’s not that far afield). Lithley House is a wonderful creation: an ancient pile that has affected many an artist who’s stayed there (Beardsley for definite; by implication MR James, HG Wells, Lewis Carroll, and William Hope Hodgson), but some of its rooms have gone missing. Or been displaced. An excellent finale, never quite going where you think (a bit like Lithley House itself). Also by the author’s own admission, nods to The King in Yellow, James Blish – and Sapphire and Steel.An excellent collection of neo-Lovecraftian fiction by three authors at the top of their game. You don’t even have to be a Lovecraft fan to enjoy it, just a fan of good writing. All this and a spot illo by publisher Peter Coleborn.

  • By "Seregil of Rhiminee" on 3 September 2016

    The Private Life of Elder Things is a marvellous collection of Lovecraftian weird fiction stories. It offers new and exciting stories to readers who love weird fiction and are fascinated by the Great Old Ones and the power that they have over us.Before I write more about the contents of this collection, I'll mention that I'm a big fan and devoted reader of Lovecraftian weird fiction and literary strange fiction. I've been fascinated by weird fiction and Lovecraftian fiction ever since I first read weird fiction stories, because they were atmospheric, satisfyingly dark and brilliantly imaginative (they made a huge impression on me). Because I'm a fan of this kind of fiction, it warms my heart to see how beautifully weird fiction blooms today and how increasingly popular it has become during the recent years. This collection is a splendid example of excellent weird fiction written by modern authors.The Private Life of Elder Things is a kind of a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft and his legacy, because the stories take place in our world where our lives cross with the Great Old Ones. Adrian Tchaikovsky, Adam Gauntlett and Keris McDonald have written stories that will delight and impress those who are familiar with Lovecraftian weird fiction, because they bring fresh perspectives into the genre.This collection contains the following eleven stories.- Donald by Adrian Tchaikovsky- Pitter Patter by Adam Gauntlett- Special Needs Child by Keris McDonald- Irrational Numbers by Adrian Tchaikovsky- New Build by Adam Gauntlett- The Branch Line Repairman by Adrian Tchaikovsky- Devo Nodenti by Keris McDonald- Season of Sacrifice and Resurrection by Adrian Tchaikovsky- Prospero and Caliban by Adam Gauntlett- Moving Targets by Adrian Tchaikovsky- The Play's the Thing by Keris McDonaldEach of these stories has been written in an atmospheric way that will please weird fiction readers. I found the atmosphere to be satisfyingly strange in all of them.These stories shed a bit of light on how we react when we come face to face with something that challenges our perception of the world and the universe. As these stories will show you, each of us has our own way of dealing with threatening situations and cosmic dread.I think it may come as a surprise for many readers that Adrian Tchaikovsky does not merely write fantasy fiction, but also weird fiction. I have to admit that it was a bit of a surprise to me how fluently he writes this kind of fiction, because I was only familiar with his fantasy fiction.When I read the stories that were written by Adam Gauntlett and Keris McDonald, I said to myself that I have to keep an eye on both of them, because I enjoyed their stories. Both of them have plenty of imagination and know how to entertain readers.Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them (I'll try to avoid spoilers in the brief synopses, because I don't want to spoil anybody's reading pleasure by too many revelations about the stories):Donald by Adrian Tchaikovsky:- A story about a man who likes ichthyological taxonomy. He has been good friends with Donald Toomey and tells about his friendship with him. Donald seems to have suddenly disappeared without explanation, but has been in contact via letters with specimens.- An atmospheric short story with an observant ending.- This may sound strange, but this story feels a bit like a some kind of a coda for Lovecraft's 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth'.Pitter Patter by Adam Gauntlett:- I won't go into details about this fantastic and atmospheric story, but I'll mention that it's a creepy tale featuring rats.- I like the author's way of writing about the events, because he gradually builds up tension and writes well about the protagonist's thoughts and feelings concerning the happenings.- The ending is fascinatingly unsettling, because the protagonist is clearly affected by what he has seen and what has happened to him.- There was something in this story that slightly reminded me of Lovecraft's 'The Rats in the Walls'.Special Needs Child by Keris McDonald:- A story about a boy who has been born under most unusual circumstances, because he was found inside a rotten corpse. He is somewhat peculiar and differs from normal children.- The author's descriptions about searching for bodies after the flooding of the city are vivid. She also writes well about parenthood and the needs of a child who is different from others.- The ending is excellent and very atmospheric.Irrational Numbers by Adrian Tchaikovsky:- A story about a gifted mathematician who prefers numbers to people. She makes a great discovery which she calls the Rigolo Transformation. Her discovery doesn't make sense to many, but there's a person whose employers are very interested in it.- The author writes excellently about the mathematician and her enthusiasm with numbers.- This is one of the most intriguing weird fiction stories I've read during the recent years, because it's something a bit different.New Build by Adam Gauntlett:- In this story, Maidah is set on modernising and rebuilding an old site. When she finds something strange there, she want to get rid of it as fast as possible. This is the beginning of an intriguing tale.- The author's way of writing about the happenings feels vivid and intriguing, because he fluently describes what happens to the characters.- A wonderfully atmospheric and unsettling weird tale with a connection to Frank Belknap Long's famous story 'The Hounds of Tindalos'.The Branch Line Repairman by Adrian Tchaikovsky:- A satisfyingly strange story about Patrick Chillet who was a historian and studied the London Underground. He finds out that there's something terrifying below the Paddington Station.- This is an excellent example of well written weird fiction with an impeccable touch of style and substance.- There was something in this story that reminded me a bit of Ramsey Campbell's 'Creatures of the Pool'.Devo Nodenti by Keris McDonald:- An intriguingly written story about Peggy and her dreams. She has dreams, but they're not normal kind of dreams, because she is worn out after sleep.- Peggy's thoughts about the mysterious Eustace and his strange appearance are interesting.- I enjoyed reading about how Peggy made a deal that affected her well-being for the rest of her life.- This story is connected to Lovecraft's Dream Cycle.Season of Sacrifice and Resurrection by Adrian Tchaikovsky:- A well written story about doctor of palaeontology and his friendship with a foreign lab technician called Kevin. He gets to witness something strange, because Kevin and some of his people need to use the museum for a ritual.- This story is connected to Lovecraft's 'The Shadow Out of Time'.- This is one of the best stories and most compelling stories I've read this year.Prospero and Caliban by Adam Gauntlett:- A wonderfully atmospheric tale of a man, Paulinus Sigurdsun, who's adrift in the vast Sargasso. He meets an American man who talks in quotes from Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'.- I enjoyed this story, because it was something different and had an excellent ending.Moving Targets by Adrian Tchaikovsky:- This story is an interesting take on drug use, because it tells about technology that delivers a new kind of high with dangerous side effects.- The disappearance of Steni Osalawi has been described perfectly with a right amount of strangeness.- A perfectly told weird fiction story with a thrilling atmosphere.The Play's the Thing by Keris McDonald:- In this story, Arthur Richmond visit an old country house, Lithly House. He is asked to look for the missing rooms of the house.- I enjoyed reading about Richmond's work, because the story is filled with tiny and enjoyable details.- This is a satisfyingly atmospheric and interesting story.I was impressed by all of these stories, because they were versatile, well written and imaginative. It was a pleasure to read them.I loved the way the authors wrote about the characters, because they placed the characters in menacing situations. The cast of characters ranged intriguingly from police officers to mathematicians.The everyday settings described in these stories add a nice flavour of realism to them. By writing about what kind of strange events and terrifying horrors the characters meet in their lives, the authors create a sense of menace that equals everything H.P. Lovecraft has written in his stories, because the characters' lives are shaken and changed by the strange experiences.The authors have different literary voices and writing styles, but their stories work well together. Adrian Tchaikovsky's stories have almost classic elegance to them while Adam Gauntlett's stories are wonderfully modern and poignant, and Keris McDonald's stories sparkle with compelling weirdness.The striking - and often descriptive - prose wonderfully highlights the small nuances of the stories. Some of the stories are filled with small details that careful readers will enjoy. For example, Keris McDonald's 'The Play's the Thing' has elements that can be seen as a homage to classic weird fiction authors.The cover image by Christopher Shy looks beautifully menacing and atmospheric. It fits this collection perfectly.The Private Life of Elder Things belongs to the bookshelf of everyone who is fascinated by Lovecraftian weird fiction. It's one of the best weird fiction collections of the year and deserves to be read by ardent and enthusiastic fans of the genre. Weird fiction doesn't get more entertaining than this, so please invest a bit of time into reading this marvellous collection.Highly recommended!

  • By ocriodac on 15 October 2016

    Well put together. Good mix of things for the liver after enthusiast. Heartily recommend it as a casual read. Keen

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