Whispers from the Abyss 2
Edited by Kat Rocha
Reviewed by David Goudsward
Compiling an anthology of Lovecraft-inspired fiction is always a slippery slope. A book grimly embracing cosmic nihilism and mankind’s utter insignificance gets ponderous after you destroy the world in story after story. Humorous tales are not exactly the Lovecraftian wheelhouse, and there is the constant risk of a plot being buried in an avalanche of tropes. In fact, one of the stories in the anthology, “Kickstarter” by Richard Lee Byers, is a parody of the perpetual namedropping in Lovecraft’s fan circles.
So what is an editor to do?
Editor Kat Rocha takes the shotgun approach in Whispers from the Abyss 2. Her preference, based on the majority of the 25 tales in this book, leans toward an excruciatingly slow buildup towards an ending that was unimagined and unpreventable – tales like “The Dreadful Machine” by Martin James Hunter where the narrator’s nonchalance in the face of unspeakable evil is the real horror.
Yes, most of the stories are of cosmic horror and unpleasant demises, but there’s also humor to be found in Wetmore’s “Notebook Concerning the Class Struggle in Dunwich, Found in the Ruins of a Construction Site” and Walker’s “Baby Rhyme Time: Youngsters Enjoy Initiation at Innsmouth Public Library.” Fortunately, most of the other titles are also shorter. There is also a detective pulp story styled piece by David Busboom, “The Vindication of Y’ha-Nthlei.” They are not Lovecraftian horror in the purest sense, but they are welcome changes of tone in the table of contents.
There are stories in this collection by masters of the Lovecraftian tale – names like Cody Goodfellow and Laird Barron – that are the gold standard for contemporary Lovecraftian horrors. And there are other names I suspect you will hear a great deal more from. It’s not perfect; several stories feel more like vignettes for longer stories, but this is an engrossing selection of stories that stands like a beacon in an increasingly large sea of tepid Lovecraftian anthologies.