After being announced as a new show ordered by HBO, I decided to check out the novel, Lovecraft Country, first. HBO has been fairly decent in its series adaptations of novels, (Big Little Lies, Game of Thrones, Sharp Objects, etc.), and Lovecraft Country probably will be no exception if handled correctly.
Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country is a horror and fantasy hybrid set in a much more blatantly racist 1950’s America about Atticus Turner, a young black man who sets off to find his father. With his childhood friend Letitia and his Uncle George in tow, it isn’t too long before Atticus finds his father. As his father is held captive by a white supremacist coven named Order of The Ancient Dawn, Atticus must tap into his mind and possibly even his own powers to save his father. And if he is successful, does that mean he is safe for the rest of his days?
When I originally picked up this novel, I was under the impression that his father would spend the vast majority of the novel in captivity. I was extremely mistaken and surprised. More haunts happen to other characters in the novel that for awhile it feels like a collection of short stories. Ranging from a racist ghost that haunts a home to a carnivorous Octopus, the scary creatures are almost as scary as the documented American racist history that influences the supernatural. Especially the world Hippolyta travels to that is plagued by a hungry species that reminded me of Octavia Butler’s Sci-fi novel Dawn.
Although for the most part I enjoyed this novel, Lovecraft Country wasn’t an easy read by any means. As a socially aware person of color, there’s a bit more to hate outside of the white supremacy in this novel. As a, (fairly new), fan of horror, I haven’t went on a book search online without seeing something relating to or getting a recommendation to the works of H.P. Lovecraft. However, after running across multiple examples of apparent constant racist and misogynist content H.P. Lovecraft weaves into his writings, Lovecraft Country is most likely the closest I’ll ever get to approaching his material.
In fact one character’s story nearly made me want to stop reading. Ruby Dandridge finds herself unemployed and a victim of several racist encounters in America until she runs into one of main antagonists. His proposal is to change her life with her consent and his solution is giving her a potion that makes her a beautiful white woman for hours. Initially, Ruby is disturbed until she tastes the privileges of whiteness and eventually is employed by the antagonist. In my mind, her storyline aims at exploring how some black people desire privilege rather than equality, however considering the race of the author I wonder what he was really trying to say with this. Perhaps this is merely just another version of a Lovecraft novella by the name of ‘The Shadow Out Of Time’, but what is the intended message within this?
Although I’m a bit confused at the author’s intentions, Lovecraft Country is a well written novel set in one of America’s most violently racist eras that blends magic, race, and horror. I’d recommend this novel to fans of Octavia Butler’s style of building worlds and characters in settings designed to not only entertain, but provoke questions and thoughts.
Rating: 8 out of 10