I like genre mash-ups, have loved Lovecraft’s work (and have role-played the old Call of Cthulhu RPG), and although I don’t read much dystopian works these days I was in the mood for something darker. Cthulhu Armageddon was it.
What to expect
The author notes in the preface that he set out to mix Mad Max with the Cthulhu mythos, coming from a background of gaming. He has done exactly that. The tone of the novels has that lone-gunman, cobbled-up technology relics feeling of the Mad Max movies and similar dystopia, while the creatures that inspired H.R. Giger and generations of horror lovers pop up to provide a suitable bloodbath and target practice.
The pace is quick, the action is constant, and in between the protagonist travels and adventures reminiscent of The Walking Dead there is that sense of deeper, mystical conspiracies and the doom of mankind.
What I liked
I loved the tone of the book, how Phipps unashamedly appropriates the Cthulhu mythos and asks the logical “what if” question – what will the world looks like, in the days after the horrors have already won? Don’t expect a pure continuation of Lovecraft tales, but instead they are used as the basis for a new world.
Phipps writes what almost feels like a gaming scenario, as the hero navigates the ravaged world and uncovers its secrets in between bouts of gruesome violence. That keeps the story advancing at a rapid pace, where the backstories are interspersed just in time for when they become relevant.
What to be aware of
As with most Lovecraftian horror, it’s not just about the inconceivable monstrosities but about the bleakness of existence. Don’t expect a happy ending (even by the horror genre standard). There is no good vs evil, but a sense of the fatalistic, ultimately futile, struggle of humanity to just survive. As the protagonist says, there is nothing much left but blood and vengeance, like ants spoiling the gods’ picnic.
This is makes for a harsh read, and for a harsh protagonist. I didn’t find Booth (the main character, from whose view the story is told) particularly appealing or relatable, though naturally that’s a matter of taste. Another similar aspect for me is that the writing style and characterisation feel a bit simplistic at times, going for the cheesy hard line rather than a deeper emotional description.
I’d highly recommend this novel (and the sequel) to anyone who enjoys dystopian horror, whether they’re familiar with Lovecraft’s stories or not. Especially if you like gaming-style high-action sequences of bloody violence.