Do not waste your time. There is so much other, better reading out there.
If you’re interested in the works and their historical significance, I’d recommend just reading summaries. There are a few interesting ideas in his works, but if you have read sci-fi, you are probably already familiar with them.
I picked this up as an audiobook without knowing what I was getting myself into. The first red flag that I got was that the narrator explaining that I should look past the racism. I figured that perhaps there were some distasteful descriptions because the works were written a century ago - it was worse than that, and I’ll get to that later. I should have stopped reading, but I kept hoping for it to get better. After a while, I just wanted to finish it so I could write this review knowing that I had the full picture.
I think that for the rest of my life, I will have a negative reaction to any person or writing that talks of things being “cyclopean”. Cyclopean means “big”, and H.P. Lovecraft loved the word. There were a few other words like “effulgence” that he loved to use as well. So much so that the writing became somewhat monotonous to listen to.
The authors at the beginning of the book mention the impressive vocabulary that Lovecraft used, but I am unconvinced. I think he found several large words that he liked, and used them excessively. To support my argument, there are many, many cases where Lovecraft refuses to use his supposedly large vocabulary to actually describe anything.
I believe that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy makes fun of Lovecraft by saying “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space”. In what felt like most of the stories, Lovecraft writes things like: “I saw things that I can’t describe. Things that no other human has ever seen and that no human could possibly imagine” (not an actual quote - but representative). What the hell am I supposed to do with this description? I can imagine lots of things, terrible and wonderful. If your vocabulary is so large, and your imagination so broad, inspire me! I was uninspired.
If you are not familiar, there is a subreddit called iamverysmart which makes fun of people who think they are smarter than everyone else, but who are actually just jerks. A modern Lovecraft would have found himself the subject of this subreddit.
Almost every one of Lovecraft’s works centers around a person who was way smarter than everyone else - to the point that it would be surprising to learn that Lovecraft did not feel himself to be superior. Everyone who is not a professor or a scientist is belittled and scorned. I think it shined through in Lovecraft’s work that he was not a fan of the common folk.
Everything is horrific
Even the coolest sounding experiences were horrific. At one point he describes an experience bordering on omnipotence as the peak of horror. There was no further explanation.
I also got really tired of being told by the author that things were horrible, rather than havint something horrible be described. Some of the descriptions were interesting. However, it felt like Lovecraft would start describing something interesting, and then give up and write something along the lines of “oh the horror”.
The works identify aristocratic white people of Eastern America (the context that Lovecraft was born into) as “normal” people, and everyone else is some either dumb or nefarious or both. There is an argument that this should be overlooked because we must consider the times in which an author wrote things. However, the extensive fear of anything “different” indicated to me that Lovecraft was actually just an asshole.
Furthermore, the use of the n-word, and n-word adjacent words made the reading quite uncomfortable. For the most part, non-white people were primitive savages who worshipped satan.
It is fair to judge people based on the times that they were living, but I think we also should judge them based on whether they were moving things in the right direction for their time. In Lovecraft’s case, I cannot imagine that he was doing so.
Don’t read it. This was painful to complete.