A jaunt in the mountains

At the Mountains of Madness is a 1931 novella from the eldritch pen of HP Lovecraft. I’m a huge Lovecraft fan, as you may be aware, and like to read at least one of his short stories over the festive period. Last year, it was finally the turn of the epic Mountains of Madness!

It’s the tale of an academic expedition to Antarctica, following up on a previous expedition that discovered a collection of ruins beyond a range of impossibly high mountains…

Mountains of Madness

There’s a really great atmosphere for the most part of this story, though it does unfortunately seem to flounder a little about two-thirds of the way through. Part of the team goes missing, so the others look for them and find their camp abandoned, with some intriguing specimens that subsequently go missing. Searching for the specimens, the first team discover the city and then spend a massive chunk of the narrative making copies of the wall carvings they find there.

Evidently, the city is the home to some particularly foul beings they call Elder Things, and the scientists delve deeply into the city, where they find dead specimens, giant albino penguins, and are eventually chased through the chasms by a Shoggoth.

Mountains of Madness

The tale is a bit like a classic disaster movie, with that impending air of doom hanging over from almost the get-go – except for that damn sluggish segment where they take notes! I mean, they know something is up from the missing research team and the escaped specimens, yet they take their time in the caverns taking notes! It just felt a bit… stalled…

However, it’s possibly the seminal Lovecraftian work – after Call of Cthulhu, I suppose – and you can’t really pass over reading it at least once. Though, obviously, I’ve now spoilt the ending for you. But you should still give it a try –