By H.P. Lovecraft
Lovecraft’s fantasy is, in my opinion, a greatly underestimated area of his work. Surely if one were listing the best American fantasy stories, Lovecraft’s novelette, The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath would surely rank high. Lovecraft’s fantasy was indebted to the work of Lord Dunsany, but Lovecraft sculpted his own vision of wonder and fear.
The tale is part of a cycle concerning Randolf Carter, a dreamy, New England gentleman of distinguished lineage and fantastic imaginings. He accesses the “Dream Lands”, a truly fantastic land that Lovecraft evokes with that overused and seldom merited epithet, dreamlike. Carter is searching for a beautiful city, glimpsed in dream, and now hidden by jealous gods. His quest takes him through the many realms, cities, and haunted ruins of the Dreamlands.
The ways of Ghouls and the nature of the cats of different planets are explored. Carter explores the mountain known as Ngranek and the Plateau of Leng. Strange battles between even stranger creatures are fought. In the process Carter discovers much about the Dreamlands, and somtething about himself.
This volume is ably rounded out by other Dreamlands short stories, “The Silver Key”, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”, “Celephais”, “The White Ship”, and “The Strange High House in the Mist”.
Lovecraft’s output of fantasy (as opposed to his very closely related field of horror) was small compared to Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, or J.R.R. Tolkein. But Lovecraft’s fantasy was something distinct, and seldom imitated. It is all the more valuable for it.