H.P. Lovecraft created a universe of interrelated tomes, characters, places, and creatures. This "Cthulhu mythos" continued long after Lovecraft's death, with many authors referencing and borrowing Lovecraftian elements in their works. The result is a feeling of unity in these works -- and it can be difficult to keep straight. The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia: A Guide to H.P. Lovecraft's Universe, Updated & Expanded Third Edition is a reference book to these Lovecraftian elements through literature.

After a foreword where Harms discusses the evolution of the Cthulhu mythos and his criteria for entries in The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia, the entries begin. From Abbith to Zylac, Harms provides a brief description for the items, followed by a listing of the main source(s) for the entries. The sources are almost always stories, though publications for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game are used often as well. Appendixes at the end deal with the chronology, locations, and contents of the Necronomicon.

The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia is a informative but dry reference work. Harms does an excellent job collecting and presenting information on the important elements of the Cthulhu Mythos (though the appendixes at the end oddly mix up fictional and historical information on the Necronomicon). However, Harms' desire to treat the entries objectively strips away the horror and mystery of the Lovecraftian creations and makes the universe... simple. The result: The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia is a great place to find out sources for elements of the Cthulhu mythos, but it won't inspire the reader to look up new parts of the mythos.

Overall grade: B-

Reviewed by James Lynch

1 comment:

Chad Cloman said...

Just purchased this, because of the review. It should be noted that the third edition came out last summer, so it’s pretty up-to-date.

The bibliography is just unbelievable. I had no idea that so many different authors had contributed to the Cthulhu mythos—even names like Lin Carter, Robert Howard, and L. Sprague de Camp.

In the foreword the author explains how, due to popular demand, he added back stuff that had been removed for the second edition. And he also states that the encyclopedia is not meant to be a comprehensive guide, which I found to be a bit disappointing. But I’m still excited to have the book.