H.P. Lovecraft, a true master of American horror, usually wrote short stories of his beloved New England region. So what happens when his story travels to the Antarctic and becomes novella length? At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror presents this atypical Lovecraftian tale, along with three short stories: "The Shunned House," "The Dreams in the Witch-House" and "The Statement of Randolph Carter."

The title tale is a narrator's account of a Miskatonic University expedition to the Antarctic. This expedition was wildly successful, both in the gear created for use and in the discoveries of ancient life and civilization. But only two members made it back, and the narrator gives a full accounting to dissuade others from repeating the journey -- especially an upcoming scientific trip there -- for unleashing the horrors that plagued the original journey.

Lovecraft may be out of his element in At the Mountains of Madness, but his style and skill remain. The strength of Lovecraft is creating a believable world that builds up to unbelievable horror, and that works well in the accounting of the expedition. The narrator begins by warning of horror, but his description of the day-to-day activities of the expedition, from the drill to managing the dogs, provides an excellent sense of realism in the Antarctic. This adds to the terror when it finally arrives, foretold from the beginning and foreshadowed by discoveries whose significance doesn't become apparent until later. I was slightly underwhelmed with the climax of At the Mountains of Madness, but I greatly enjoyed the trip there.

The other three stories are on more familiar Lovecraft territory -- two haunted houses, and on exploration into a graveyard -- and these are also very good. "The Dreams in the Witch-House" stands out for a college student's delving into mathematics leading to unearthly places and angles -- and the terrifying duo of the witch Keziah Mason and her rat-like familiar Brown Jenkin.

None of these are Lovecraft's greatest tales -- for those I recommend The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre -- but At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror is a good taste of Lovecraft's style of horror, demonstrating how effective he can be -- even beyond New England.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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