Fans of Lovecraft will cherish David Barker and W. H. Pugmire’s latest release, The Revenant of Rebecca Pascal. Set in Lovecraft’s fictional Arkham, the tale contains the classic Lovecraftian details: creepy settings, bizarre (and often inexplicable) characterizations, the supernatural, and of course, Miskatonic University.
While many Lovecraft-inspired tales rely too heavily on Lovecraft himself and risk drifting into the lack-of-originality zone, The Revenant of Rebecca Pascal skillfully avoids that trap. Barker and Pugmire have chosen the ghost motif to explore Lovecraft’s themes rather than the more traditional “monster” narrative of which H.P. is most famous. The center of the story is a disturbing old mansion in Arkham. Richard Pascal inherits the place, and decides to become a bit of a dandy. He spends his days reading and wandering amidst the eclectic collection of souls at a local café. Things are not as they seem, however, and Pascal quickly finds himself in the middle of bizarre and frightening events. Haunted by prophetic dreams and visits from his dead aunt, he goes to war with a revenant bent on resurrecting an elder god.
Barker and Pugmire know their Lovecraft. The cadence of the writing style feels like H.P. Lovecraft, while at the same time, manages to feel modern and fresh. Some readers will balk at the style, hindered by its grammatical complexities, but for readers relishing something more than staccato dialogue linking action scenes together, this is it.
One need not be familiar with Lovecraft to enjoy The Revenant of Rebecca Pascal, but it does help. The story is a marvelous Gothic ghost tale, and the Lovecraftian elements can feel at odds with that structure, particularly to one not familiar with their original context. Lovecraft acknowledged that his writing was driven by monsters and not characters, thus parting ways with the Gothic writers of previous decades. Barker and Pugmire walk a fine line between the 1800s literary tradition and Lovecraft’s interwar period for most of the work, but the monster aspect to the Lovecraftian style dominates by the end. In spite of this shift, The Revenant of Rebecca Pascal is a well-crafted tale that will please fans of the Gothic and the Lovecraft camp. With illustrations from Erin Wells, this is a novella worthy of multiple reads.