Monday, September 5, 2011
As the Cthulhu Mythos ages, it must probe its tentacles into successively stranger territory to achieve favorable responses from readers. As a result, we get books like The Damned Highway: Fear and Loathing in Arkham, written by Nick Mamatas and Brian Keene. Curiously, the volume mashes, inverts, and reconstructs parody not just from H.P. Lovecraft, but from Hunter S. Thompson's infamous drug fueled journey across Las Vegas.
Like Thompson's living nightmare masquerading as atmospheric mind alteration and social commentary, Keene and Mamatas set out to make Lovecraft's Arkham even tripper than it is by default. The Damned Highway actually journeys through multiple Cthulhu hot spots, including Innsmouth and the bewitched hills of New England. The narrative is notable for throwing politics into mix, since few modern Mythos tomes dare to tread in that direction, even if the monstrous corruption exposed is primarily that of the Nixon years.
There's something oddly humorous and chilling about throwing Nixon and his underlings into an environment seething with cultists. After all, the President is one of the few on record who discussed observing the ritualistic hijinks in Bohemian Grove.
As far as literary style goes, Keene and Mamatas break their usual boundaries with this book, and that's a good thing. This is a frontal assault on convention. The Damned Highway: Fear and Loathing in Arkham snaps the chains around familiar Lovecraftiana, and pushes both authors into uncharted territory. While any Lovecraft fan hopes the Cthulhu Mythos won't devolve into parody-upon-parody, well executed and imaginative tales like this one can play a pivotal role that innovates and entertains.