Tag Archives: Weird Tales

Suspicious Town: A Review of The Dunwich Horror

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. Vintage Science Fiction month takes place every January, and has a few guidelines:

 – read, watch, listen to, or experience something science fiction / fantasy that was created in 1979 or earlier

 – talk about it online sometime in January

 – have fun

If any of my readers are also interested in participating this month, let Little Red Reviewer know about your posts if you’d like them to be included in her official roundups. 

 

Title: The Dunwich Horror

Author: H.P. Lovecraft

Publisher: Weird Tales

Publication Date: April 1929

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Historical

Length: 58 pages

Source: I read it for free here

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Dunwich Horror is the story of Wilbur Whateley, son of a deformed albino mother and an unknown father, and the strange events surrounding his birth and precocious development. Wilbur matures at an abnormal rate, reaching manhood within a decade–all the while indoctrinated him into dark rituals and witchcraft by his grandfather.

The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft book cover. Image on cover is an abstract drawing of a white smoky blob against a black background. Review:

Content warning: Murder. I will not be discussing this in my review.

Nobody really knows what goes on behind their neighbour’s front doors.

Lovecraft had such a descriptive writing style. Whether he was telling the reader what the unwelcoming landscape looked like or exploring the hidden depths of the people whose families had lived there for generations, he knew exactly how to pull the audience in and make them listen closely to what he was saying. This is a special gift, and it’s something that leads me back to his stories over and over again even though I completely understand the many valid criticisms of his work and personal beliefs. I think there’s something to be said for acknowledging the flaws in famous creators while still leaving room to enjoy the ways they used their talents.

There were some parts of the storyline  that I struggled to understand, especially when it came to Wilbur’s origins. While I completely understood why the surrounding community wouldn’t know all of the details about his parentage, especially in an era when children born to single mothers were so heavily stigmatized, I had a ton of unanswered questions about this stuff that would have really helped me to understand later developments. Was there perhaps something lost in the nuance of it all over the last century? Is the world I grew up in too different from this one to easily make comparisons between the two? Sometimes I wondered if this was the case since the characters seemed to piece some of this stuff together in ways that I as a modern, urban reader did not. This was still an enjoyable read, but those passages did make it feel dated at times.

Small, rural communities can be pretty unwelcoming places to live, especially for anyone who stands out from the crowd due to their appearance or membership in a minority group. I liked the way the author stretched the tendencies of some members of our species to be insular and suspicious of outsiders to its limit. It truly brought out the absurdity of it all while also explaining why humans can react so harshly to people they don’t understand or relate to for any number of reasons.

I’d recommend The Dunwich Horror to anyone who is at least occasionally little disquieted by small, sleepy towns.