This is the first in a new series of book reviews at the Metanautics Department. The intention is to help readers by calling attention to independent books and authors that might otherwise go unnoticed.
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Title: The Old Gods
Author: M.K. Lindenberg
Length: Approximately 9,000 words
Purchase Link: Amazon
The Old Gods is Lovecraftian horror in its classic form, with one major twist: in Lovecraft’s tales, the characters were typically humans who investigated or stumbled upon ancient gods or other strange creatures. In Lindenberg’s story, the protagonist is a god himself, albeit one who was once a man.
The tale opens with a description of the unnamed main character’s life as a god, and the abridged story of how he came into his present existence. While he is essentially omnipotent within the confines of his own pocket universe, his goal is to return to Earth, which remains the domain of the so-called “Old Gods.” The Old Gods is the story of his struggle for dominance, as well as his eventual reward.
Having a main character that exists outside the realm of ordinary humanity could be a recipe for tedium, but in this case the story works because of the interplay between the protagonist and the different groups of humans and other gods. Rather than taking the form of a straightforward him vs. them conflict, allegiances shift between the different camps in a way that effectively drives suspense. In addition, I liked the pure horror elements, and they help to spice up the narrative without overwhelming it.
By about a third of the way through, I found myself becoming more drawn into the story, wanting to find out whether or not “the god” would succeed in his quest. In some ways, he is a typical anti-hero, motivated primarily by avarice and hatred. But, there is something compelling about the way he reacts purely out of emotion, as if the transformation to godhood has left him with the instincts of a mere child. As Lindenberg says, “Human emotions, even to ones who were once human, are strange things to them, the same way we look at a large insect or fish and hardly care to conceive what’s going on behind its eyes.” Even though many of the god’s actions throughout the story are outwardly despicable, it’s hard to deny that any of us might not be capable of them, just as we are capable of poisoning an anthill that infests our front lawn.
I do have one problem with the e-book as presented to me: the smattering of typos and formatting problems scattered throughout. Although not present in ridiculous quantities, there are still too many for such a short story, and I’d like to see Lindenberg do another round of copy-editing in a future edition.
Rating: Four ancient embodiments of malevolent horror trapped in the depths of R’lyeh out of five.