The Private Life of Elder Things (2016) is a collaborative collection of new Lovecraftian fiction by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Adam Gauntlett and Keris McDonald.
“From the wastes of the sea to the shadows of our own cities, we are not alone. But what happens where the human world touches the domain of races ancient and alien? Museum curators, surveyors, police officers, archaeologists, mathematicians; from derelict buildings to country houses to the London Underground, another world is just a breath away, around the corner, watching and waiting for you to step into its power. The Private Life of Elder Things is a collection of new Lovecraftian fiction about confronting, discovering and living alongside the creatures of the Mythos.”
In my experience, Lovecraftian-themed collections tend to be very hit-and-miss. The same can be said for most collections of short stories, no matter the genre. Well, The Private Life of Elder Things has become my exception to the rule. This is an excellent collection of Lovecraftian short fiction in which every story is a hit.
It was Adrian Tchaikovsky’s name that attracted me to this book. I know from experience that he is a writer that you can rely on to pen a great story. Thanks to him, I have now discovered two new authors to keep an eye on in future: Adam Gauntlett and Keris McDonald. These three writers deserve your attention, so without further waffle, let me offer brief summaries of the eleven stories in this collection.
“Donald“ by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The narrator tells a story about meeting Donald Toomey at a conference on marine conservation. Though initially wary of Donald’s ‘physical deficiencies, […] stooped, gangling, with a teenager’s bad skin carried over into his mid-twenties,’ the two men discover they share common interests and strike up a written correspondence. Tchaikovsky opens this anthology with a short story addressing the infamous “Innsmouth Look”.
“Pitter Patter” by Adam Gauntlett
An old, abandoned Territorial Army base is the setting for this creepy tale by Adam Gauntlett. Sergeant Johar and his two companions go searching for rats in the cellars and discover something far, far worse.
“Special Needs Child” by Keris McDonald
A ghoulish story of a mother’s love for her unusual child. This is a very good horror story and is definitely not for the faint-hearted! McDonald has written some memorable scenes that will truly shock you. One scene in particular got stuck in my head, reaffirming my belief in the power of words in the hands of a skilled writer. *shudder*
“Irrational Numbers” by Adrian Tchaikovsky
What would you be willing to sacrifice for a chance to see other worlds? In his story notes, Tchaikovsky mentions Lovecraft’s classic tale “The Whisperer in Darkness” as an influence on this story of an advanced mathematician and her dream-inspired theorem.
“New Build” by Adam Gauntlett
During the refurbishment of an old pub, Maidah and Mike discover a sealed room in the basement. After it’s opened, a series of strange events start to take place involving the graffiti paintings of a ferocious hound.
“The Branch Line Repairman” by Adrian Tchaikovsky
What lies hidden deep below the London Underground? This is an atmospheric tale set in modern day London. A historian begins an investigation into the discovery of strange markings on the walls of one of the Underground service tunnels.
“Devo Nodenti” by Keris McDonald
Another creepy tale by McDonald which I loved for its weirdness. Peggy Connings is old now, but still remembers what happened during an archaeological excavation of an ancient Roman temple in the early 1960s. Dreams and curses play an important role in this story.
“Season of Sacrifice and Resurrection” by Adrian Tchaikovsky
A museum worker’s tale of his burgeoning friendship with a foreign lab technician. What would you do if you discovered your new friend was visiting the museum after hours? Suppose you stay late one night to observe him and find that he is not alone…
“Prospero and Caliban” by Adam Gauntlett
After a global disaster, Professor Sigurdson spends his days scavenging boats on the Sargasso-a sea of weeds. One day, he meets an “American” who only speaks lines from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. When “Black Sails” are seen on the horizon, the two men fear what may come with their approach.
“Moving Targets” by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Investigating a new drug being peddled at illegal raves, two police detectives stumble upon an experimental device that could threaten the fabric of reality.
“The Play’s the Thing” by Keris McDonald
A Victorian era haunted house story with a fascinating take on the genre. This is not your standard haunted house tale. It’s a brilliant subversion of what we usually associate with this genre. McDonald’s tale is part ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, part ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and part M.C. Escher.
Not only is The Private Life of Elder Things an excellent modern Lovecraftian anthology, it also works as a superior collection of short horror stories. It’s very rare for me to enjoy every story in an anthology but I did with this book. Highly recommended!
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to leave a comment:-)