Llewellyn Worldwide, $19.99, ISBN 978-0-7387-0627-6
Necronomicon is the title of the infamous fictitious book that contained the dark secrets of the creepy Old Ones, created by HP Lovecraft and eventually taking on a life of its own as other authors use it as part of their own horror stories. Some people even believe that the book is real, while folks such as Donald Tyson come up with their own version of the book. This is quite ironic in a way, as Mr Tyson writes quite a number of spiritual and occult books while Mr Lovecraft rolled up his eyes at these things when he was alive, heh.
The content of the book has never been set in stone, just that it is blasphemous and sacrilegious, so Mr Tyson has a lot of room to play. The gimmick behind this one is that it is the English translation of the Latin translation of the original Arabic book. The Latin translator met a mysterious end after doing his job, while the original author was Abdul Alhazred. Alhazred was favored by the sultan of his time for his beautiful voice, which he put to good use in singing out prayers and such, until he unwisely embarked on an affair with one of the sultan’s daughters. The man was cast out after being tortured and mutilated, so he was already unhinged when he was left to die in Roba el Khaliyah, a desolate stretch of desert.
This book is marketed as some kind of encyclopedia of the Dark Ones, but it’s actually a story. It is obvious in the early chapters that they detail Alhazred’s efforts to survive in the desert as much as they are about the ghouls and other creatures that come out after the sun has set. As the book progresses, it details how the man found a lost city that lead to a series of portals connected to both the realms of the Elder Ones, the comparatively more benign beings that try to keep the Dark Ones down, and the Dark Ones, who want to destroy or abuse the world, and other nefarious beings from dark realms in the solar system. Along the way, he learns of things as well as methods to perform spells, raise the dead, and communicate with these otherworldly spooks, before settling down in town with his newfound abilities. Even in a bustling city full of people, there are still monsters lurking in the dark corners, and Alhazred is very familiar with these monsters.
There are some adorably nasty stuff here, but the author’s writing style takes some getting used to at first, as he adopts a flowery bombastic style to recreate the whole “olde world” feel. Still, after a while I get used to his cadence and the whole thing becomes less tortuous to read. It is then very easy to appreciate all the work the author put into creating the excellent atmosphere and sense of foreboding terror. Indeed, I like how this one captures perfectly the dread that emanates from Mr Lovecraft’s stories. You know, about how there are things – dark, bad things – out there hovering just within the edge of our consciousness, with grotesque physiology and mental faculties that are actually a step-up in the evolution of life. In other words, they are not only monstrous and repellent – they are also what superior life forms are meant to be. Necronomicon embodies that sense of dread that comes with the realization just right.
If there is a downside to this one, it’s probably how often variations of the lore here have been done many times before, it’s nowhere as scary as it could have been. But that’s not the author’s fault, I feel, as he’s stuck in a hard place. If he deviates too far, he’d earn the wrath of die-hard fans of Mr Lovecraft. At any rate, this is an enjoyable, coherent, and frequently nasty read that succeeds in being both the dark and twisted odyssey of a man as well as a glimpse into the horrific lore of the Old Ones. It’s a nice companion book for fans of the dark and deranged world created by Mr Lovecraft.