The Book of Yig: Revelations of the Serpent: A Cthulhu Mythos Anthology (edited by David Hambling and Peter Rawlik) was published by Macabre Ink (an imprint of Crossroad Press) in April 2021.
by David Hambling, Peter Rawlik
Edited by David Hambling and Peter Rawlik.
Yig, known as the Serpent God, is older than humanity, and Yig’s reptilian Children once ruled the Earth. Now they are stirring in their caves, walking the Earth in forms not quite human, slowly and patiently preparing their plans. Those who stumble on their secrets are in deadly danger…but only they can prevent the return of our darkest fears.
Join us for a collection of novellas from some modern masters of Neo-Lovecraftian fiction: Peter Rawlik (Reanimator, The Weird Company), Matthew Davenport (Andrew Doran, The Trials of Obed Marsh), David Hambling (Harry Stubbs, The Dulwich Horror), and Mark Howard Jones (Cthulhu Cymraeg) telling stories of Yig’s deadly machinations.
REVIEW: THE BOOK OF YIG: REVELATIONS OF THE SERPENT: A CTHULHY MYTHOS ANTHOLOGY (EDITED BY DAVID HAMBLING AND PETER RAWLIK)
The Book of Yig: Revelations of the Serpent: A Cthulhu Mythos Anthology (edited by David Hambling and Peter Rawlik) is an excellent weird fiction anthology that is filled with Lovecraftian weird fiction. It's highly enjoyable pulpy entertainment to readers who love the weirder side of speculative fiction.
As every devoted reader of Lovecraftian weird fiction probably knows, Yig was first mentioned in Zealia Bishop's The Curse of Yig (co-written/ghost-written by H.P. Lovecraft). Yig or "the Father of Serpents" is unfortunately not a well-known deity in Lovecraftian weird fiction and mostly fans of Lovecraft's stories know of him and his role in the Cthulhu Mythos. Somehow, Yig seems to have been largely forgotten by speculative fiction readers. This may come as a surprise to many readers, but the most recent mention of Yig that I've seen before this anthology has been in the Lovecraftian board game called Arkham Horror, which I've played with a friend of mine. I think it's great that this anthology has been published, because there are way too few stories and mentions about Yig to be found anywhere.
As a big fan of all things Lovecraftian, I was deeply impressed by this anthology and found its contents excellent and compelling. Each of the authors has succeeded in creating a Yig-based story in their own style and pays homage to Lovecraftian weird fiction. I have nothing bad to say about any of the stories, because they're all worth reading.
This anthology contains the following stories:
- "The Snake in the Garden" by David Hambling
- "Andrew Doran and the Journey to the Serpent Temple" by Matthew Davenport
- "Still Life with Death" by Mark Howard Jones
- "Revelations" by Peter Rawlik
- "Coda: The Return" by David Hambling
Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:
David Hambling's "The Snake in the Garden" is a tale set in South London, 1927. In this tale, Harry Stubbs is told by an ex-serviceman Corporal Slingsby, who is now a tramp, that he has seen a man put a parcel in the bin at night. When Slingsby shows the contents of the parcel to Stubbs, he notices that it's flayed human skin that looks as if it has been shed like a snakeskin. Soon, Stubbs receives a note with strange writing on it that was found in the pocket of a deceased person and he begins to investigate things...
This story is a classic investigator story with strong Lovecraftian elements. I like the author's way of writing about Harry Stubbs' investigations and how he finds himself in the middle of strange events. There's something old-fashioned yet modern about the author's writing style that fascinates me.
One of the most intriguing scenes in this story is the meeting between the protagonist and a girl, who seems to be an autistic savant. This surprised me, because I didn't expect to find anything like it in a Lovecraftian story. I also enjoyed the discussion about the exotic and valuable plants that a certain person had grown in his apartment, because I was amused by the dialogue (as an enthusiastic gardener, I found this dialogue very entertaining).
I liked the ending, because it hints at things that are much older than human race. This kind of revelations are the reason why I love Lovecraftian horror stories, because they're all about atmosphere and not about action.
I have to mention that I haven't read any of the author's other Harry Stubbs stories, so I'm not familiar with them, but I will definitely take a look at them after reading this story.
Matthew Davenport's "Andrew Doran and the Journey to the Serpent Temple" begins in Anchorage, 1938. It tells about Dr. Andrew Doran who tries to keep paranormal entities from getting to our world. He is approached by Elena Cantor and Nathan Rusch who claim to be descdendants of a long line of wizards and are hunted because of it. They ask Andrew to get an artifact from the Temple of the Serpent, because it will help them to keep their existence hidden from the followers of Yig. Andrew believes that Elena and Nathan haven't been entirely honest about their intentions and thinks that they're hiding something. Soon, he is on his way to India to find the artifact...
What I like perhaps most about this story is that the protagonist is aware of various entities that threaten our world and exist in our world. He is not an untrained person who has to face unknown forces, but is experienced and knows a thing or two about what kind of threats exist. This makes for a nice change, because normally many Lovecraftian stories feature protagonists that know little about the forces that might annihilate or enslave the human race.
This story reads like an old-fashioned pulp adventure story with weird fiction elements. It's a fully satisfying combination of adventure fiction and weird fiction, because the author knows how to deliver a good story that has a captivating ending.
Mark Howard Jones's "Still Life with Death" is set in the Northeastern United States, 1955. It tells of a painter called Lyall Lych. He is currently working on a new set of paintings, which are disturbingly different from his usual work. A man called Franklin Fant is staying with him and he's trying to help his guest by fixing an image of him. The purpose of the images is to help his guest to somehow undo what he has done to himself, because his guest believes he has succeeded in partially eroding the walls between realities...
I found this story utterly compelling, because the author uses Lovecraftian elements in the best possible way and fluently creates an unsettling atmosphere that gradually becomes increasingly intense as the story unfolds towards its climax. I was impressed by the ending, because the author delivers a chilling and atmospheric climax that is true to the story's Lovecraftian roots.
In my opinion, this is the best of these stories and closest to my heart, because it's classic Lovecraftian weird fiction that greatly appeals to me. I admire the author's writing style and his sense of weirdness, because he understands what Lovecraftian weird fiction is all about and writes good prose. This story has a few elements that remind me of H.P. Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model".
Although this story is unsettling Lovecraftian weird fiction, the relationship between the protagonist and his girlfriend lightens the atmosphere in a good way. It's surprising how well this relationship fits the events and brings a cool touch of pulpy fun to the story.
Peter Rawlik's "Revelations" begins at Witch Hill Hospital in 1960. At the beginning of the story, Dr. Wingate Peaslee and his partner, Dr. Arthur Bishop, visit the Witch Hill Hospital, which is a place of treatment for those who have encountered things that have left them broken in body and mind. He goes there to report of his findings involving strange beings. What his partner does in the hospital has a great effect on his life and work... A bit later, Peaslee lives in Florida and enjoys his life, but is feeling a bit bored. Suddenly, he meets an old friend...
This is an interesting and well written story, because the author writes about a protagonist who knows what kind of horrors and disturbing things there are in the world, but can't talk about them to outsiders, because he knows what would happen to him if he did so (those who are familiar with H.P. Lovecraft's fiction will notice that Wingate Peaslee is the same person who was mentioned in "The Shadow Out of Time"). The hidden secrets and the secret operations make for an intriguing read and the author handles these elements well. I also want to mention that the post World War II setting with Nazis, Nazi hunters, the book called The Revelations of Yig, cold war elements etc fits the story perfectly and makes it stand out amongst the other stories.
I was impressed by this story and its pacing. Peter Rawlik is a fine author who knows how to modernise H.P. Lovecraft's core elements, but stays true to the genre's roots. This is one of the finest and most entertaining Lovecraftian stories I've read to date. It definitely deserves to be read by fans of Lovecraftian weird fiction.
David Hambling's "Coda: The Return" concludes the anthology. This short story takes place in the present day in New Delhi. It wraps things up in an intriguing way.
The Book of Yig is a satisfyingly pulpy, entertaining and captivating reading experience for lovers of Lovecraftian weird fiction. If you have a taste for the weirder side of speculative fiction and enjoy all things weird, you can't afford to miss this anthology, because it's compelling entertainment. If you're like me and love Lovecraftian stories, you'll be pleased with this anthology and its contents.