A review of C. T. Phipps' Cthulhu Armageddon
C. T. Phipps' Cthulhu Armageddon was published by Crossroad Press in August 2016.
Information about C. T. Phipps:
C. T. Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".
Information about Cthulhu Armageddon:
“Under an alien sky where gods of eldritch matter rule, the only truth is revenge.”
Cthulhu Armageddon is the story of a world 100 years past the rise of the Old Ones which has been reduced to a giant monster-filled desert and pockets of human survivors (along with Deep Ones, ghouls, and other “talking” monsters).
John Henry Booth is a ranger of one of the largest remaining city-states when he’s exiled for his group’s massacre and suspicion he’s “tainted.” Escaping with a doctor who killed her husband, John travels across the Earth’s blasted alien ruins to seek the life of the man who killed his friends.
It’s the one thing he has left.
A REVIEW OF C. T. PHIPPS' CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON
C. T. Phipps' Cthulhu Armageddon is an amazing post-apocalyptic weird western novel, because the author delivers an original no-holds-barred vision of what the world is like after the Lovecraftian Great Old Ones have conquered it and how the surviving humans try to cope in the new world. In this novel, elements of horror, science fiction and western blend seamlessly together in an exciting way.
Before I write more about this novel and my thoughts about it, I'll briefly mention that I don't normally invest time in reading this kind of fiction, because I've often been extremely disappointed by weird western novels due to their lack of imagination, originality and style. This novel is one of the few exceptions that I have found enjoyable and original enough to please me. It strongly appealed to my sense of weirdness, because it had plenty of Lovecraftian elements in a fresh and exciting format. There's a fantastic feel of hardboiled pulp with a faint touch of bizarro fiction to this novel that I found charming.
I think that most speculative fiction readers are familiar with Cthulhu Mythos or have at least heard of it, but if there are readers out there who are not familiar with it yet, below are a few words about it, because in order to fully enjoy the story it's good to know at least something about Cthulhu Mythos (knowledge about Cthulhu Mythos gives you more insight into the various elements found in this novel).
The Cthulhu Mythos is a shared fictional universe, based on the work of H. P. Lovecraft. The fictional cosmic entity Cthulhu is a central figure in Lovecraft literature. An ongoing theme in Lovecraft's work is the complete irrelevance of mankind in the face of the cosmic horrors that apparently exist in the universe. The Great Old Ones are a loose pantheon of ancient, powerful deities from space who once ruled the Earth and who have since fallen into a deathlike sleep. (More detailed information about Cthulhu Mythos can easily be found from the internet.)
If you're wondering what kind of a novel Cthulhu Armageddon is, it can best be described as a weird combination of Mad Max films, Cthulhu Mythos, Fallout games (especially Fallout 3), Clint Eastwood's western films and cosmic horror. It's an irresistibly original genre mash-up that is unlike any other weird western novel, because it contains post-apocalyptic elements and loads of Lovecraftian weirdness.
It's possible that Cthulhu Armageddon may not be to everyone's liking due to its contents, but that's one of the reasons why I love it and recommend it to other readers. I respect the author for having the courage to write his own kind of weird western novel that boldly differs from what has been previously written by other authors. I never would've guessed that somebody could write so captivating and entertaining a weird western novel, but C. T. Phipps has written such a novel. The use of Lovecraftian elements truly makes a difference, because it separates this novel from other similar kind of novels and elevates it into a class of its own.
Here's a bit of information about the story:
Captain John Henry Booth is leading Gamma Squad Rangers through the Great Barrier Desert. They're performing a rogue operation because of mass kidnappings and are searching for a Black Cathedral. Soon they find the Cathedral, the appearance of which is both alien and disturbing, because it's black and darker than obsidian and grotesque statues line its walls. They move into the Black Cathedral and find themselves surrounded by armed Cthulhu cultists. They annihilate the cultists, but they're surprised to notice that the bodies are starting to rise up and things go badly wrong. Soon Booth passes out... When Booth recovers his consciousness, he finds himself tended by doctor called Mercury Takahashi. He finds out that a lot has changed since he passed out and he's no longer a Captain, but a traitor who is declared dead. Mercury tells that she needs to escape New Arkham and asks Booth take her to a safe place in the Wasteland...
This is the beginning of an amazing story that is filled with surprises, horror, science fiction, action and humour.
The characterisation works well, because the author gradually reveals bits and pieces about the characters and their secrets. It's nice that the author doesn't get stuck on meaningless details when writing about the characters, but keeps things fresh and avoids repetition. The characters feel developed and well written, and they experience feelings of terror, madness and disgust. Some of the characters feel a bit clichéd, but that's not a bad thing in this novel.
John Henry Booth is an interesting protagonist, because he has been through a lot. He is a soldier and a respected leader whose life changes when he is believed to be a traitor. After being declared dead, he decides to seek the person who is responsible for what happened to him and make him pay for it. The complicated relationship between Booth and his wife, Martha, who's a psychic, is handled well. I enjoyed reading about what happened between them.
I enjoyed reading about Mercury Takahashi, because she had her own reasons for escaping New Arkham. She was a woman had been brought up to be a torturer. She doesn't know much about life and survival outside in the Wasteland (she is inexperienced when it comes to the ways of the outside world).
Richard is an especially interesting character, because he's an immortal ghoul. He lives in the Scrapyard among humans and is Booth's friend.
It was touching to read about Jackie, because she's a young eleven-year-old girl who has lost her parents. She's all alone in the world.
It's great that the author uses Lovecraftian elements in a boldly original way. He dares to experiment with them and has fun doing so. Almost every possible element from the Great Old Ones to Necronomicon is mentioned and featured in the story, but the author's approach to them is wonderfully fresh (the author makes several nods to H. P. Lovecraft's stories and uses many names that are familiar to readers who have read Lovecraftian fiction).
By the way, if you're a narrowminded purist when it comes to Lovecraftian fiction, you'll probably experience a major shock when you begin to read this novel and may abhor what you read, but if you're openminded and enjoy reading something different, you're in for a whole lot of fun and you'll get to read about several fascinating scenes. I found this novel to be very entertaining, because I've never read anything quite like it ever before.
This novel has a fascinatingly weird atmosphere that is enhanced by the author's depictions of the strange beings and monsters. There are certain sections in which the story feels a bit dream-like and otherworldly and evokes a strong sense of eldritch threat. The Black Cathedral is quite a sight to behold for fans of Lovecraftian weirdness, because it's a captivatingly strange and otherworldly place.
The action scenes are excellent. In my opinion, the author fluently writes about the frenzy and desperation associated with action and makes sure that his readers enjoy the scenes.
The worldbuilding is excellent, because Earth has changed permanently and landscapes have been altered by the Great Old Ones. I love the author's vision of the new world, because much changed since the Rising and the world has become a hellish place for humans. Whole sections of the globe have been upended by the Great Old Ones and ancient cities have been unearthed from the ground. Humanity has been reduced into pockets of few survivors and power play and politics among the survivors complicates life.
It was interesting for me to read about the Wasteland and life there, because it was a dangerous, harsh and unforgiving place. People who lived there had adapted to a new way of living, because there was no going back to old life. The author's vision of people and ghouls who lived in the Wasteland felt intriguing and I enjoyed his descriptions about them.
By the way, the audiobook version of Cthulhu Armageddon is great. If you're interested in listening to audiobooks, the audiobook version is worth listening to (please, give it a try). The narration by Jeffrey Kafer is good, because he brings the story to life with his performance. I also want to mention that if you find this novel enjoyable, the author has written a sequel called The Tower of Zhaal (published January 2017), which continues the story of Booth. I'm personally looking forward to reading it, because I loved everything about this novel.
I highly recommend C.T. Phipps' Cthulhu Armageddon to readers who want to experience something original, captivating and weird. It's a fascinatingly original and action-filled weird western novel that will appeal to those who enjoy reading about Lovecraftian beings and post-apocalyptic happenings. If you want Lovecraftian mayhem with style and originality, I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed by the story. There's a lot to love in this novel, because it has action, humour, horror, human emotions and surprises.
My final words are:
Cthulhu Armageddon is fresh and thoroughly enjoyable Lovecraftian entertainment! More, please!