Review: The Innswich Horror by Edward Lee

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A few weeks ago while perusing the Nook store, I came across The Innswhich Horror by Edward Lee.  I was a bit skeptical, given my experiences with Mr. Lee’s other fiction, but after reading the free sample I was pleasantly surprised by the content and ended up purchasing it.  Overall, I feel like I didn’t waste my money, or more importantly – my time.

For those of you who don’t know anything about Edward Lee, the quick and the short of it is that he’s considered one of the more shocking horror novelists out there.  Sexual perversity, gore, violence, perverision.  Its all in there, when it comes to his previous books.  Now, I’m not a prude by any means but for me a little goes a long way and Lee’s previous books tend to be very heavy handed with the aforementioned things.  There’s definitely a target audience out there for Lee’s sub-genre, obviously since the dude’s been hacking away at the keyboard quite successfully for quite some time, but its not exactly my ideal sub-genre of horror.

That being said, I was impressed with Lee’s novel The Innswich Horror.  If the word ‘Innswich’ doesn’t tickle your subconscious then  apparently you’ve never read any Lovecraft.  You see, old HP Lovecraft wrote a novella back in 1936 called Shadow Over Innsmouth.  Essentially it’s about this dude that ends up in this crappy little seaside town that’s home to a cross-bred human/fishy-man hybrid.  The country bumpkins that live in said town worship the fishy-men and this god called Dagon.  Hilarity ensues.  Or maybe mayhem.  Either way it’s one of Lovecraft’s finer pieces.

So…Edward Lee’s The Innswich Horror is essentially about this dude who’s obssessed with Lovecraft.  The dude goes on a road trip through New England, retracing the travels of Lovecraft in hopes of seeing and visiting the places that Lovecraft did.  The story takes place several years after the death of the Lovecraft.  So, this dude’s on the ultimate fanboy experience when he comes to a town called Innswich.  Long story short, the dude begins to realize that Innswich was the real life inspiration for Lovecraft’s Innsmouth.  Dude decides to stay and check it out.  The town turns out to be nothing like Lovecraft’s depiction since it’s recently been revamped courtesy of FDR’s public works program.  Despite the disppointment in not being able to go slumming, the dude sticks around since the folks are nice and he plans on catching the bus in a day or so to continue his tour of Lovecraft-land.  Unfortunately for the dude, the town has a much darker and twisted side to it and he quickly finds himself in deep shit after sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.  Hilarity…well…dismemberment ensues…

Essentially The Innswich Horror is both a sequel and homage to Lovecraft’s Shadow Over Innsmouth and Lovecraft in general.  Lee shows tremendous skill in capturing Lovecraft’s literary voice.  Not only does it read like a Lovecraft story in terms of vocabulary and verbose sentence structure, but Lee does a good job at capturing the personalities that populated Lovecraft’s world.  Especially in the protagonist’s personality, and narration.

Unlike Lovecraft, who never had any graphic violence in his stories or romance, or even female characters, Lee spices things up with the inclusion of a subplot involving the romance between the protagonist and a townie.  Although not as intense as his usual style, Lee also doesn’t shy away from violence and gore.  I think his somewhat limited use of it makes it more impactful, and inducing of horror.  Lee does excel at creating tension and suspense where it is needed in the novel, through short sentences and knowing the fine art of how to invoke a sense of action/danger through proper description.

The only faults I found with The Innswich Horror is occasionally Lee throws in some references to events or people that were current during the time, but the way he references them in dialogue comes across as forced and awkward.  It feels more like he’s saying ‘hey check out this cool tidbit about Hitler or FDR I came across.’ rather then a natural conversation two characters would have.  Other then that the conversation feels natural, and fortunately Lee limits his tidbits to early parts of the book.  The subplot of the love interest between the protagonist and the townie is a bit absurd, only a day or two passes and their suddenly in love?  Really?  If they were teenagers, I could understand it as ‘puppy love’ but two adults in their 30s?  I suppose it could happen but it felt kinda forced.  The protagonist is a philanthropist and does want to use his inherited wealth to alleviate the downtrodden family of the townie, I buy that but the love story is kind of weak.

Despite the faults, The Innswich Horror was an enjoyable read, both on its own and as a homage/tribute to Lovecraft’s mythos.  If your a fan of Lovecraft or speculative fiction in general it’d be worth checking out regardless if you are a fan of Lee’s or not.

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