Darrell Schweitzer, ed.
DAW (308 pp, $7.99, 2010)
Reviewed by Chris Braak
It is unquestionably a challenge to create a sense of drama in a set of stories that all share the premise of “human civilization has been destroyed by invincible monster-gods from space.” Cthulhu’s Reign is an anthology that sets out to do just that, using the theme of H. P. Lovecraft’s Old Ones – most often Cthulhu and his star-spawn, but not always – returning to prominence on earth after countless millennia of death/sleep. All of the book’s fifteen authors are to be commended for their imaginative takes on just what that return might look like, but there are some problems with the anthology as a whole.
The first and primary issue is that it’s just unrelentingly depressing. One story about the end of humanity out of a collection of fifteen is one thing; but a book in which every single story ends on a note of complete and utter hopelessness is exhausting. There is no reason to blame the authors; they are each separately and privately fulfilling their mandate. The problem is with the idea of the theme itself, which might be charitably described as “too much of a good thing.”