On Safari in R’lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera by Elizabeth Bear
My rating: 4/5 cats
“Family on the Vineyard?” It might have been a cheerful tone. It might have been a leading one. But it was the sort of question anybody might ask. As so often happens when one has an unconventional upbringing, small talk brought me up short and sharp.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I’m adopted.”
for a lovecraft story, from the standpoint of a staunch non-lovecraft-fan, this was good. for an elizabeth bear story, from the standpoint of someone who LOVED The Girl Who Sang Rose Madder, This Chance Planet, The Horrid Glory of Its Wings, and Deriving Life, it was just okay. meaning, if i had read this story with a different author’s name attached to it, i woulda thunk, “hey! i unexpectedly enjoyed this lovecraftian story!” but my expectations are different when it’s an author whose stories have moved me so in the past, so here we are at a three and a half, rounded up.
i’ve actually read another of her lovecraft-inspired tales, Shoggoths in Bloom, and enjoyed this one a whole lot more, but while this is a fine story in its own right, it was written in a different tone than the ones of hers that have pierced my little reader-heart. when she works dark and bleak and emotionally-gutting, i’m the first in line. this one takes a more prickly-humorous tone, and while i dug the narrator’s voice, and the way bear played with lovecraft’s inescapable vocabulary, particularly the “gobbling shrieks,” the fact that i don’t have any lovecraft bones in my body along with my hunger for more of her smash-my-heart stories made this one less appealing to me.
but there’s no way your reader-makeup is exactly like my reader-makeup, so never let me dissuade you from reading anything (except harry turtledove’s supervolcano trilogy—that’s a hard objective “no”). if you like beleaguered female academics with uncertain parentage going on interdimensional and undersea adventures, full of altars and these things
and these things
by all means, come to this novelette. bring cameras. and guns.
read it for yourself here: