Cover of When the Stars Are Right

Has Anyone Talked To You About R’lyeh?: When the Stars Are Right by Scott R. Jones

When the stars are right , Cthulhu speaks its Name, which is also its Call, and we who have made of our minds suburbs of the great city of R’lyeh hear it. We hear it, snaking through the twisted streets and warped alleyways we have carved in our own heads. The Name moves like sentient smoke through a consciousness made R’lyehian. We hear it, and breathe it in, and allow it to enter us in unfathomable ways, and we know (44).

Cover of When the Stars Are RightI recently had the good fortune to read the most recent book by Scott R. JonesWhen the Stars Are Right If you are a Lovecraft fan in search of spiritual guidance, this book is most definitely for you. Jones has deftly interwoven an academic quality of Lovecraftian knowledge with philosophical and spiritual interpretation, and added a dashes of wry humor throughout that will bring forth nods of approval from the true R’lyehian. However, there is more to this book than first meets the eye, and one need not necessarily be fully committed to the R’lyehian faith in order to find value here.

So, what is this book about? Well, it’s NOT a biography of Lovecraft or a dry academic study of his world or writing. Instead, Jones has taken the time to actually consider the different Great Old Ones in their pantheon and determine their position and influence upon the spiritual nature of our lives. While you may think, at first glance, that this book is a parody of similar types of spiritual books for other more mainstream religions, this book has some seriously good discussion of the unknowable nature of what came before, what will come after, and the important parts in between. The book is constructed of a series of meditations on different aspects of a R’lyehian religion. This book is full of thought provoking passages, and I found myself continually taking notes and underlining. For example, on the search for understanding the Great Old Ones:

The R’lyehian breaks down the pathetic wall (because, like all walls, it demands to be broken down) and launches herself upon those black seas to sail or swim or sink as the tides decide, for the Great Old Ones are to be experienced, felt as living realities, embraced, merged with. We cannot know them as they know themselves, but we must try nevertheless (22).

on the hunger that creates Time:

Not for nothing is Shub-Niggurath portrayed in much of the Mythos-related fiction as a deity of vast appetite, for she is the embodiment of the First Rule of the Universe: Everybody Hungry. This hunger manifests in various ways: for food, territory, information, experience. All these things must be consumed, in whole or in part, and all to feed the First Hunger itself: the hunger for Time, or the Future, a hunger that can only be sated through sex and procreation (33).

on the qualities of Cthulhu that are significant and advantageous, such as dreaming, waiting, and – the one I found most interesting – sorcerous consciousness:

The R’lyehian is non-Euclidean in her adaptability: of persona, of action. There one moment, as a creative, compassionate, or ambivalent member of human society, and gone the next, donning and exo-personality that allows for slipping off between dimensions, performing incomprehensible feats … Multiple personality disorder not as a disease (or even disorder, for that matter) but as a lifestyle choice, as fashion statement, as a suite of tools and skins for navigating strange angles (52-53).

Jones covers a variety of aspects related to spiritual belief, including practice, artistic renderings, sex, death, and beyond. Throughout it all, there is an engaging balance of serious examination and entertaining aside, an explanation of the spiritual thought that helps you think through your beliefs and actions and answer the question, “Are you keeping it R’lyeh?”

I absolutely loved this book! If you are looking for a way to start off the new year right, you should definitely check it out. It will help you ramp up your spiritual practice and prepare yourself for that day, when the stars align, and when the Great Old Ones return for our glorious destruction … or, you know, just help you be more thoughtful about your life on a daily basis.

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Cover of The Vines

Christopher Rice’s The Vines: A Dark Entanglement

Cover of The Vines

The Vines was actually the first book by Christopher Rice that I have read, and while I have to admit I wasn’t completely blown away, there were quite a few things in this book to like.

The gist of the story is that a well-off, but less than attractive woman who is old Louisiana money, catches her husband cheating on her on her birthday. Distraught, she retreats to the outdoor gazebo, smashes a wine glass and prepares to slit her wrists. However, her first drop of blood awakens something in the soil, and it displays itself as a vine that grows up around her wrist, sucking the blood from her veins. The vine then proceeds to take care of her cheating husband problem. The woman starts to view it as an ally, a force to wield, but there are complications and the mysterious, deadly force cannot be contained.

This is most definitely a horror story, but there are also some elements of dark fantasy, or dark fairy tale, here. Not only is the presence unleashed a terrifying conceptualization of nature gone wild, but the back story of violence and mystery adds substantially to the darkness of the book. In my mind, it was never daylight in this story.

NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD

So, here is what I liked about the book:

  • I liked that Rice went with a very different kind of menace in this book. It was an interesting combination of earth magic, blood curse, and actually there were some interesting old school sci-fi influences (think Little Shop of Horrors). And, I would also say that it was heavily influenced by the weird. We never really find out what the force is behind the vines – there are people identified as being in control of the situation (the old land owner) but it seems that he really wasn’t in complete control. He was more of a front man for whatever was working behind the scenes, whatever craved blood and revenge.
  • I also liked the character of Blake. I wasn’t prepared for him to end up being the hero of the story, and I love that this is an non-traditional hero. Blake’s scarring from the tragedy inflicted upon him because of his sexuality led him to become someone who was ready for the challenges that he had to face, and who may be able to control the forces for some time into the future. He is an interesting protector figure, and I would say one of the most interesting characters that I’ve encountered in some time.

If you are a fan of dark fantasy and the weird, then you will probably enjoy this book. I know that I will definitely be picking up more of Christopher Rice in the future.