The Mall of Cthulhu by Seamus Cooper was a fun read, very light and fast paced. Cooper, a pen name for Brendan Halpin, is a talented writer, and has created a fantastic first novel. The Mall of Cthulhu is half homage, and half satire, poking fun at some of the more ridiculous aspects of Lovecraft’s original works, such as the tendency for everything to be “horribly indescribable,” and the heavily racist overtones that Lovecraft often used. Yet even while pointing out these flaws, the story is an entertaining modern twist on classic tales of ancient terrors and Old Gods.
Just as the title sounds, the story is not very serious, being mainly concerned of a plot by Cthulhu Cultists to awaken the Old God inside of a shopping mall, and thus destroy all of existence. There are sprinklings of other stories within the main plot though, dealing with vampire sororities and an arm of the Department of Defense dedicated to the supernatural, but these come off as a bit trite, and it is the humorous nature of the plot, along with the believable characters, that prevents the book from degenerating into drivel.
The biggest weak point that I found with the novel is that it starts with the two main characters, Ted and Laura, destroying a vampire nest in a sorority, with no explanation, no background, and no more than five pages dedicated to what is a huge plot point. From there it jumps ahead in time, to ten years after the vampire incident, and follows the Cthulhu plot, constantly making reference back to the vampire incident. Even while reading the summary on the back of the book, I felt as if it should be a sequel, not a first novel. While Cooper does make the story work, it seemed almost random to start off a novel with such a slapdash prologue, especially when much of the characters motivations are based heavily on it. There is an effort to bring the novel full circle at the end, and I can understand the desire by Cooper to do so, but it seemed to me that he could have fleshed it out a bit more, or even written a separate novel.
Other than the tacked on vampire prologue the novel was fantastic, and I would recommend it to any fan of the Cthulhu Mythos. The tongue in cheek references to the Cultists as being “angry white men” and the archaic language that they use, such as, “You will beg for the sweet mercy of death,” are running -gags throughout the book, yet they are coupled with an obvious knowledge of, and passion for, Lovecraft lore and because of this the jokes come off as just plain fun, rather than seeming like backhanded critiques. The pace of the story was also helpful, being much more action oriented than suspenseful. Anyone who has read Lovecraft knows that he can be soporific at times, and Cooper is anything but boring.
What is unique about this story is how Cooper not only includes R’lyeh, but goes into great detail describing it. R’lyeh has always, at least for me, been no more than a resting place, a reference, an unknown location, as Lovecraft was brilliant at conceptualizing the ideas in his stories, but notorious for not actually giving any detailed information on them. In Cooper’s novel though, R’lyeh is explored and all the mind-bending non-Euclidean geometry does not cause insanity, but curiosity and awe. It was an interesting combination of Lewis Carroll and Dante, and it bumped the book up from just a good way to kill time, to an excellent addition to the almost hundred year old Lovecraft legacy.
All in all, The Mall of Cthulhu was a fun, lighthearted novel, certainly not another lame Lovecraft fan-fiction, which is quite refreshing, and it definitely deserves to be recognized. It is always nice to see someone manage to make something new from century old material, and I look forward to the sequel!