Genre Horror Publisher Hippocampus Press Year Published 2001 Review Posted on 9/21/2006 Reviewer Rating
The Shadow Out of Time: the Corrected Text, by H. P. Lovecraft
Reviewed by Phillip A. Ellis
If you've read this book, why not
Poe's dictum that the long poem could not exist, because it lacked an essential unity of mood, could not be translated to the longer works of H. P. Lovecraft, including his The Shadow out of Time. On the whole, Lovecraft made himself an inimical prose stylist, orchestrating through a careful use of prose rhythms and emotive suggestiveness, among other aspects of his writing, towards an overall effect, and to convey what is, essentially, a cosmic judgement upon humanity. He judges us, and we are easily found wanting.
Briefly, Professor Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee suffers an anomalous fit of amnesia, and he loses more than just years of his life. When he recovers, he begins to get strange flashbacks and dreams, and when proof of such may be exposed in an Australian desert, he proceeds to determine the reality or otherwise of his wildest hypotheses.
Lovecraft is often considered just a pulp writer, or just a writter of horror fiction. Yes, The Shadow out of Time is horror fiction, but it is also science fiction, and this blend of the two genres by Lovecraft is one of his lasting legacies. That he does so, and does so so well, is testament to his ability as an author and thinker. Lovecraft actually speculates, not about the future, or the past, but upon us, ourselves, and our place in the cosmos. And that, simply, is central to effective literature.
Note must be made: The Shadow out of Time is the corrected text, with introduction, note and textual notes. The academic apparatus is there for the scholar, and the serious student of Lovecraft, although the introduction and notes can be useful to a more general reader, if some degree of a deeper understanding of a point or allusion is desired.It is the corrected text because it presents us with the text of the original manuscript, rather than with corrupt transcriptions, based on the first magazine appearance, or otherwise. The textual notes make clear, for example, how far the text had been corrupted, and it is a pleasure to be able to read an almost pristine text, and to gain a fuller appreciation of Lovecraft's literary mastery.
On the whole, though this book is slim, at just 59 pages of text, excluding the academic apparatus which takes up almost 75 pages in itself, the complexity of the story, its emotional basis, and its resolution more than make up for the brevity. It is well worth the price tag. If you are into Lovecraft, pulp horror, or even pulp science fiction, The Shadow out of Time is one book you should at least read, let alone own.