New Weird for the New Year!

Before we get to New Weird, we should take a look at Old Weird! The best - or, at least, best known - examples of Weird literature were written by H.P. Lovecraft, who gave us the darkly disturbing yet strangely beautiful world of Cthulhu, the Old Ones, and the Necronomicon. Lovecraft used his macabre world to explore themes of forbidden knowledge, supernatural influences on humankind, fate, religion, and the dangers of unrestrained science.

New Weird tends to explore similar themes in worlds two steps removed from our own. Alongside mankind dwells entities entirely unlike us, who may mean us harm - or may cause us harm incidentally as they pursue their own agendas. Unlike most horror, the Other is entirely inimical to us - the Monster confronting us is not a reflection of our own darkness but something incomprehensible that drives us to madness.

Our Main Read for the month was chosen just for you by Cthulhu himself! (I tried to tell him that it wasn't one book but a trilogy; he said it was one book - just look at it. I tried to explain the difference between a "book" and a "codex." He threatened to make some Tequila Lime Jude's Soul, and the conversation went downhill from there. Still - he's not wrong about the reading recommendation!) Check it out:

Annihilation
http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/886382220
Area X - the Omnibus edition of The Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance).

The tower, which was not supposed to be there, plunges into the earth in a place just before the black pine forest begins to give way to swamp and then the reeds and wind-gnarled trees of the marsh flats. Beyond the marsh flats and the natural canals lies the ocean and, a little farther down the coast, a derelict lighthouse. All of this part of the country had been abandoned for decades, for reasons that are not easy to relate. Our expedition was the first to enter Area X for more than two years, and much of our predecessors' equipment had rusted, their tents and sheds little more than husks. Looking out over that untroubled landscape, I do not believe any of us could yet see the threat.

So begins the first novel of the The Southern Reach trilogy, Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer. The biologist - stripped of her name and reduced to her function, as are the other three women in her party - gives us her account of the expedition into an area mysteriously changed and set apart from our world. Exploring themes of environmentalism, communication, and identity, the series leads the reader to question how humanity has truly changed the world - and what might be necessary for us to find our place in nature once again. Read it once for the story - then read it again for what lies underneath.

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Cthulhu also offered up this month's Quick Read - a very short, absolutely gorgeous retelling of one of H.P. Lovecraft's best-known stories.

Littlest Lovecraft: The Call of Cthulhu
http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/865063828
Turns out, The Call of Cthulhu is the first of a series! Tro Rex has more of these Littlest Lovecraft gems, and I will own them all.

The most merciful thing in the world, I think,
is that mere mortal minds just cannot comprehend.
We were not meant to fathom the vastness of time,
or the reach of the cosmos, or Things without end.

At 64 pages, Littlest Lovecraft: The Call of Cthulhu by Tro Rex is a wonderful introduction to the Cthulhu Mythos.  Thurston inherits his grand-uncle's box - and, subsequently, his maddening obsession with an Elder Thing and the humans who worship it. The story, retold in poetry and beautifully illustrated, is presented like a children's picture book - but is definitely intended for adults. Exploring themes of religion, the supernatural and man's relationship with it, it's a quick read with a real kick.

Have a question about New Weird? Hungry for some more recommendations in this genre? Send me a message, and I'll ask Cthulhu! (No need for us both to go insane!)

Enjoy! And I'll see you again next month, for a new reading recommendation from another member of my Readers Advisory Committee.

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