Sunday, March 13, 2016

Book Review: The Things That Are Not There by C.J. Henderson

The Things That Are Not There by C.J. Henderson

Paperback, 202 pages

Published October 1st 2006 by Elder Signs Press

While many of the various sub-genres of horror are getting saturated the expansion of the Lovecraft mythos has remained mostly a underground sensation. That is not to say that Cthulu plushies don't exist, they do. Just like vampires, werewolves and zombies there are authors who do it right and some who well don't quite get it. CJ Henderson is an author I only have one earlier experience with. In 2011 I reviewed his short story collection "Degrees of Fear." At the time I reviewed that collection one thing I was critical of was the author's dependence on Lovecraft tropes as almost a crutch. Several authors have been heavily influenced by Lovecraft but didn't cut as close to the bone. I think authors like Thomas Liggoti and Laird Barron are great examples. Certainly Cody Goodfellow is a author who orbits closer to Lovecraft while maintaining his own voice and ideas.

Still The collection of Henderson's work was good enough that I picked up a signed copy of this book at a local book store shortly after the author passed away in 2014.

The Things That are Not There is A Lovecraftian hard boiled detective cross-over novel that spawned two sequels. The story of Teddy London a corny Carbon copy private eye that feels yanked straight out of a black and white noir movie. That may sound insulting but one positive for me is I picked this novel happening in black and white. Every once in a awhile some modern aspect of life or the New York setting pulled me out of it. I actually think this novel would have been better served in the 50's. The end of the world is threatened here and think that is why Henderson went ahead and set it in our time.

This novel started strong with a atmospheric opening 50 pages. The set-up of the case was spooky and weird. Many Lovecraftian horror tales get a little less interesting when the source of the horror is revealed. This is a mythos problem how can the reveal ever equal the build up of something so mind-bendingly fear inducing it can't be described?

Looking at CJ Henderson's career it is clear he loves hard-boiled private eye stories as much as Lovecraft. The two styles crossed more effectively early but I did like an exchange on page 85:

"Spooky ain't she?"

"Well, what ain't these days."

I was entertained by this novel, but I am not sure I was excited enough to read the second or third book in the series. The book boasts an epic concept but pretty flat prose and short narrative. The scope is not all that epic considering this is the end of the world.

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