Written by Brett J. Talley
Published by Journalstone
The word “throwback” gets thrown around a lot, doesn’t it? Modern-day artists, be it authors or filmmakers, seem like they’re always striving to pay homage to their roots and influences. Throwbacks are a dime a dozen in the movie world, and many, many novels are advertised as being “in the vein” of [insert popular author here]. Sitting down with That Which Should Not Be, it was hard not to feel skepticism for a story so steeped in Lovecraftian style that it occasionally walks the fine line between loving homage and pale imitation. That’s not to imply that author Brett J. Talley isn’t a talented guy – taking a page from H.P. isn’t an easy thing to do. And it’s to his credit that this novel works as well as it does, even if it feels like we’ve seen it all before.
Talley’s novel is a Lovecraft story. Simple as that. But Talley acquaints himself with the author’s style so well (albeit with modern storytelling sensibilities) that it often feels like reading a long lost piece in the long-celebrated author’s canon. Miskatonic University serves as the backdrop of this story, centering around student Carter Weston and his quest to retrieve a mysterious book from a nearby village. Carter’s quest for knowledge takes him on an atmospheric journey of sinister men, startling revelations, and naturally, a gateway that bridges our world and the next.
The story may not be the most unpredictable, but boy, does it hold one’s attention. Talley’s command of his craft creates more than one memorable set-piece, as this narrative is told from the perspectives of five different characters, each of them equipped with their own experiences in this demonic world. Each segment reveals a larger piece of the puzzle, including the threat of Cthulhu returning to earth. It would be a crime to spoil anything more, but it’s important to reemphasize that while this stuff feels familiar, it’s incredibly well done. Talley isn’t merely riffing on old Lovecraftian themes as a crutch; he’s doing something fun with this material.
There’s probably no better time of the year to sit down with That Which Should Not Be. It’s a spooky, atmospheric fantasy story that pays loving homage to its roots while potentially serving as a springboard to more fascinating horror/fantasy. Brett J. Talley is a man with talent, and this book certainly makes him an author to watch. Fast-paced, classy, and with some terrific prose, this is an excellent read for horror fans. Very highly recommended.
4 out of 5