The Tsathoggua Cycle: Terror Tales of the Toad God Call of Cthulhu Fiction Horror Book Review
Featured Book Review: Darkbound
Darkbound is an amazing book. Michaelbrent Collings outdid himself with this book. It is not at all what I thought it would be. I took three nights to finish this book because I stayed up way past my bedtime. Darkbound was so suspenseful that I just kept on reading to…
Horror books Review
The Call of Cthulhu series is published by Chaosium Books as a supplement for its Call of Cthulhu RPG game. Each book highlights single entities, concepts or authors significant to the Lovecraft Mythos.
This collection starts off strongly, with five stellar stories from the pen of Clark Ashton Smith. These tales are loosely connected by their setting in Hyperborea, Smith’s prehistoric civilization.
The first, From the Parchments of Pnom, is a genealogy of Tsathoggua, telling how he fits into the hierarchy of the Old Ones. I’m not sure why the editor included this; it’s not really necessary to know in order to enjoy the rest of the stories. I would have much rather read The Door to Saturn, which feature’s Tsathoggua’s cosmic origin.
The Seven Geases relates the story of a minor noble of Hyperborea, Ralibar Vooz, who is sent on an underground quest through progressively more dark and bizarre vistas. He encounters several awe-inspiring creatures, including the hideous spider god Atlach-Nacha, the oozing, amorphous Abhoth, and the menacing toad god Tsathoggua.
The Testament of Athammaus tells the story of the abandonment of Commoriom, the capital city of Hyberborea, through the eyes of its last headsman. A bandit by the name of Knygathin Zhaum, distantly related to Tsathoggua, was terrorizing the local populace. Eventually he is captured and executed multiple (yes, multiple!) times, going through ever more hideous transformations each time.
The Tale of Satampra Zeiros is a sequel to the previous story and introduces us to Hyperborea’s most infamous thief. While down on his luck, he travels to the now long abandoned city of Commoriom, in the hopes of acquiring some of the riches rumored to be left behind after its hasty desertion. Unfortunately, he enters an abandoned temple dedicated to Tsathoggua and comes face to face with a nameless horror.
The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles presents the further adventures of the lovable bandit, Satampra Zeiros. There is no appearance of Tsathoggua in this tale, but it is very amusing nonetheless.
Two more stories are set in Smith’s fictional worlds, but both are written by different authors.
The first is The Shadow of the Sleeping God, written by James Ambuehl. It once again features Satampra Zeiros, who is caught by Ruul-Vash, the high priest of the temple that he raided in The Theft of the Thirty-Nine Girdles. He is sent on a dangerous mission in order to spare his life, during which Satampra has his second encounter with Tsathoggua. Unfortunately, this story is just a shadow of the previous one; the characters just don’t have the same vibrancy.
The Resurrection of Kzadool-Ra by Henry J. Vester III is set in the world of Zothique, in the distant future (but similar in culture to Hyperborea). Yat-Shan is a minor priest seeking a higher position when comes upon the temple of the forbidden god Zathogwa. After he gives an offering before the dark altar he is endowed with superhuman powers, but at what price?
The two following tales are lovingly rendered pastiches of Lovecraft’s work.
The Old One, by John Glasby, follows a professor who finds an old book about pre-human civilizations and becomes obsessed with finding the lost city of Yuth. Eventually his search brings him to the Caribbean Sea. The story is told in a very scientific manner. The description of the fabulous cityscape is well done. It reminds me of At the Mountains of Madness, which is one of my favorite Lovecraft stories.
The Tale of Toad Loop, by Stanley C. Sargent, is a straight-up retelling of The Dunwich Horror set in a new location. Old Mazrah Mulltree, formerly of Innsmouth, moves to Madlan County and starts to stir up trouble.
The rest of the stories cover the gamut of scenes and settings.
The Curse of the Toad is a short story about two old friends meeting after several years apart. One is much changed by his encounter with an African tribe that worshipped Tsathoggua.
Dark Swamp is about a legendary bog in Rhode Island that Lovecraft once tried to visit. The author retraces his steps and finds out there’s a good reason for the swamp’s evil aura.
Horror Show features a pair of university students who meet at a Goth club and decide to find more authentic entertainment by attending a theatrical ritual held in Tsathoggua’s honor. The tale is presented in a very creepy and realistic manner, which is something most modern Mythos authors have a hard time pulling off. I think this is the best of the non-Smith stories in the collection.
Crawling Kingdom relates the story of a reporter visiting an old professor in the hills of Appalachia who relates a strange encounter in the woods during a thunderstorm and how it has haunted him since.
Rounding out the entries is The Oracle of Sadoqua, by Ron Hilger. It is set in Roman times and revolves around invading Centurions fighting against native druids in the land of Averonia. After a long battle, Horatius discovered that his friend has been captured and vows to find him. He is sent to an oracle of Tsathoggua for help in his search, but stumbles onto a deeper horror than he bargained for.
This is a vastly superior Mythos collection, thanks in large part to the inclusion of Clark Ashton Smith’s stories. Tsathoggua seems to offer a lot more variety than other Mythos concepts, as seen by the many different settings and time frames employed by the various authors.