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Return to Innsmouth: Henry Hinder - book review

Return to Innsmouth advertises itself as a Lovecraft comedy, and that’s a fairly accurate description. For those of us used to a more modern style of writing, the antiquated language, syntax and purple prose can prove frustrating at first – although, once I got used to it, it became easier to endure, and occasionally enjoy. The language combined with setting and unholy monsters evokes very effectively the era and nightmares of the old xenophobe himself. The novella screams Lovecraftian, which makes the modern additions of Holiday Inns and McDonalds feel anachronistic in comparison. If anything, this is the heart of the story’s charm; it shows us the timeless nature of fear.

Return to Innsmouth Hutchinson 1860
“Rounding the corner, the large golden arches blazed so brightly in contrast to the rest of the dingy, run-down town that it almost appeared to be a protrusion from another, more heavenly dimension.”
“[I]t is the most foolish of endeavors to even attempt to convey a modicum of the unutterable hideousness that can dwell in absolute silence and barren immensity, but again, I find myself pursuing that ineffable goal nonetheless.”

Todd and Bill are well-drawn characters and make an interesting and frequently hilarious detective team – Bill the self-centred man of action, Todd the ingratiating “friendsistant” – their dynamic reminds me of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. They appear ludicrous and incompetent, but they get the job done – sort of.

Perhaps my favourite parts were the magical symbolisms infusing Todd’s dreams:

“the Seventy Steps of Lighter Slumber […] the Cavern of Flame […] the cat-infested streets of Ulthar […] the distant whisperings of Kadath […] the phosphorescent fungi [in] the Enchanted Woods where Zoogs and their kin dwelled.”

At times, it’s very funny. In fact, there were moments when the humour reminded me of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, two writers whose work I love. And the main character’s conversational style of narrative is engaging when he isn’t channeling old HP.

“Deliveroo had recently parted ways with me for, on occasion, eating the customers’ food before delivery. In my defense, however, I was not paid nearly well enough to afford food for myself as well as rent.”

The horror is mild but there is a sense of dread and an uncanny atmosphere which pervades the pages. It’s not a book for children though, as some of the sexual references are fairly explicit and may offend some readers.

On balance, I feel it is worth the drudgery of wading through the dense language to enjoy the eldritch chaos while chuckling at Hinder’s clever jokes and humorous wordplay. However, I would have loved it much more if the archaic turns of phrase had been dialed down a little.

“[E]lephantine beings of formless protoplasm that bubbled in viscous agglutinations”

illustrates my point perfectly, I believe.

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