In At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, William Dyer, an old geologist dude, is pretty freaked out over a new expedition to Antarctica. Some time before, he himself was a part of an Antarctic expedition… that went terribly wrong. This is a Lovecraft story, so of course.
Dyer’s colleagues went digging around and found the remains of fourteen ancient creatures. These aren’t like mammoths or T-Rexs or anything. These creatures are too evolved to be where they are on the time scale. Those colleagues, who found the creatures by travelling further into the previously unknown mountain ranges of Antarctica, lose contact with Dyer’s group. Crazy winds whip at the camp and keep Dyer’s men from flying out to find them. Finally, Dyer and a guy named Danforth grab a plane and head out. At the other camp, they find a terrible scene of carnage. After taking it all in, they scoot off into the mountains.
Dyer and Danforth are overwhelmed by the scale of the mountains, taller than the Himalayans, and bugged out by the strange whistling the wind makes. They notice cube-like structures and realize that the mountains hide a city. Inside the city, the pair find art in tunnels that explains the entire history of the dead creatures they call Elder Things, including a struggle that wiped them out. After some time, they feel something is still alive in there with them.
At the Mountains of Madness is more Science-Fiction than horror. The scientists are the variety in fiction who are too curious for their own good. You know that if you go poking around in caves, or under Paris, nothing good will ever happen. The same can be said for Antarctica. Leave it to the penguins, boys. Dyer drones on and on about drills and eras and blah-blah. I zoned out a few times. He also has a habit of saying things like, “I can’t even put into words the terrible thing I saw, but I must.” Just get to it, man!
Let’s get to the monsters. I like Lovecraft’s monsters. However, it was way too convenient that the whole evolutionary history of the creatures was displayed in the “decadent” art. I say decadent because Lovecraft uses that and “queer,” and “grotesque” about a thousand times. If you are going to use “decadent” that often, it better involve chocolate.
This wasn’t my favorite Lovecraft story. I’m not sure if it was the setting or that it wasn’t as scary as some of his earlier books. There was something missing for me. Maybe it’s because it hasn’t aged well. We know what Antarctica looks like because of exploration and satellite imagery. We have Google Earth now, there are no mysterious mountain ranges. That takes some of the wind out of it.
About the audio: At the Mountains of Madness is narrated by Edward Herrmann (Lorelei Gilmore’s dad). He uses a very professorial accent. It was an enjoyable listen.
Let’s hear what Sparky Sweets has to say about it.