Wednesday, September 7, 2011
The Damned Highway: Fear and Loathing in Arkham by Brian Keene and Nick Mamatas (2011): It's been a hell of a year for H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos with a Cthulhu three-part South Park arc, an appearance on Supernatural, Alan Moore's Neonomicon miniseries, and what now seems to be a self-sustaining Cthulhu-based publishing industry. Oh, and there's going to be a Cthulhu Mythos app for your iPhone. Ai! Lovecraft, thou shouldst be living at this hour.
OK, you'd be 121 now, but that's young for some of HPL's less human protagonists.
So I guess it was only a matter of time until someone collided the worlds of eccentric outcast Lovecraft and eccentric outcast Hunter S. Thompson, as Keene and Mamatas do here with a "previously unpublished" section from Thompson's coverage of the 1972 American presidential campaign, Fear and Loathing: The Campaign Trail '72.
Having discovered that ancient deity/alien Cthulhu backs Nixon for president in 1972, Thompson heads out from his Colorado cabin to cover the story. Or stop Nixon. Whichever comes first. Keene and Mamatas do a lovely job replicating Thompson's gonzo journalism and gonzo prose style while also working in enough references and allusions to the Cthulhu Mythos and its foundational stories and incidents that an annotated edition might actually prove helpful to the uninitiated.
Thompson's tolerance for drugs and alcohol serve him well as he tracks Cthulhu's influence across America, with stops in demon-haunted Arkham, decayed fishing-town Innsmouth, and squamous, leprous Washington, DC. The Republican Party serves Cthulhu. Whom do the Democrats serve? And can the world be saved? Does it deserve to be?
And what happened to the American Dream, depicted here as being as damned and monstrous and horribly malformed and mutated as any Lovecraft protagonist damned by fate or heredity or an accidental brush with the world-devouring Great Old Ones.
Keene and Mamatas weave together fact and fiction in rewarding, hilarious and surprisingly moving ways as they take their narrator straight into the heart of Hell...or at least some version of Hell. Events major (from J. Edgar Hoover's death to 9/11) and minor (Democratic hopeful Edmund Muskie's bizarre mispronunciation of 'Canuck' as 'Cannock' spins off into an entire sub-plot) butt up against Thompson's idiosyncratic personality and style, as well as Lovecraft's equally idiosyncratic personality and style. "We are all Cthulhu," Nixon tells Thompson at one point. Well, I hope not. I really hope not. Highly recommended.