Monday, October 3, 2016

MMRM: "The Alchemist" and "The Beast in the Cave" by H.P. Lovecraft

'Tis the season for the unearthly, the undead, and the downright macabre. Not everyone can read an entire book in time for Halloween- some of us are too busy with other books, or even other things (gasp). For those poor souls, I offer these reviews: I will be writing my thoughts on some of my favorite short stories for this spooky season, either one at a time or in pairs.

This is the third year of Mini Macabre Review Monday. Long live creepy short stories!

Previous Mini Macabre Review Mondays:
#1: "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell
#2: "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe
#3: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "The Fall of the House of Usher"
#5: "The Wendigo" by Algernon Blackwood
#6: "The Bodysnatcher" and "A Terribly Strange Bed"

"The Alchemist" by H.P. Lovecraft

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 3 Stars (Good)
Content: Ages 14+ for violence and a bit of excess description
Page Count: Approximately 6 pages
Year Published/Finished: 1908 (according to Wikipedia, Lovecraft was 17 or 18 years old)

I would say this story was greatly influenced by The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, as when I was reading the first pages, I was a bit scared it would be almost identical to it. The main character, Count Antoine de C-, is of noble descent (obviously), and lives in a crumbling castle, a block of which killed his father. Where it deviates, though, makes it worth a read- the curse was cast centuries ago by the son of a wizard.

The Plot: A young man seeks to break the curse put on his family that causes every heir to die on their 32nd birthday.

While this delves into my preference for atmospheric reads with effusive description of the castle ruins, I found myself a bit put off by it. H.P. Lovecraft can write well- however, there is a point at which your mind wants a break from such inactive scenes.

"The Alchemist" is a good read, with a great scare factor. And yet, I also found my mind wandering the depths of its own thoughts rather than those offered by the protagonist. This might interest those who are fans of "The Fall of the House of Usher".

"The Beast in the Cave" by H.P. Lovecraft

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Great)
Content: 12+ for brief violence and mild horror elements
Page Count: Approximately 3 pages
Year Finished/Published: 1905 (Lovecraft was 14 years old)

I was a bit disoriented by the start of this tale, but quickly caught on to the drift of things- I have a collected works of H.P. Lovecraft book that has proven interesting, despite some of the stories simply being long swathes of description. Luckily, this one has less description than that of "The Alchemist", leading it to be easier to read.

The Plot: A man is separated from his guide and gets lost in a cave... where he believes he isn't alone.

To me, this almost reminds me of some elements of The Fellowship of the Ring, which perhaps raised my rating a little higher than usual. I know I've read a story similar to this one, but I can't quite recall which one it was (dastardly side effect of being a prolific reader with a short term memory). Adding to the suspense of this story is the fact that the main character has no torch to see with, and he is reliant on his ears to sense his surroundings.

"The Beast in the Cave" is far more spooky than Lovecraft's previous tale, despite being written earlier. While it does bear some resemblance to other scary stories I've read, I frankly did not expect this tale to end the way it did.

Keep it spooky,


  1. These are great. I didn't think I had read A Terribly Strange Bed, but after I started reading it, I remembered I had, ha ha. I have not read The Oval Portrait, any in #7 and #8, nor these Lovecraft (that I recall at this moment anyway). I will be checking them out!

    1. A lot of these tend to end up in scary story collections, so if you've read some of those, you've probably read a few of these. Lovecraft is a new to me author, so I hope I can find a few more gems in the omnibus I have of his stories.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, La La!
      ~Litha Nelle


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