Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Review: The Colour Out of Space

THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE: "It was just a colour out of space -- a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it." -- H.P. Lovecraft

            The Colour Out of Space is a 12,000-word story by H.P. Lovecraft. It follows an unnamed man, as he surveys a rural area in preparation for the construction of a new reservoir. Noticing a mysterious patch of land, he asks around the area to know what has happened there. He comes across old Ammi Pierce, who tells him a story that begins with a meteorite crashing into the farm.

            H.P. Lovecraft’s writing style somewhat feels like a news report, with direct narration of the details and minimal use of dialogue. Even though the style is prone to boring the readers, he drives them forward with vivid imagery, and a sense of mystery and horror. His prose is very wordy and poetic, just like the other writers of his time. But his wordiness is not a desperate attempt to increase word count; it helps him be lyrical in presenting his story. The only downside of this style is its lack of immediateness, so the action scenes aren’t particularly snappy.

            The Colour Out of Space has an impressive story structure, from the presentation of the mystery to the conclusion of the tale. H.P. Lovecraft doesn’t rush in revealing the secrets. He slowly unravels the mystery one detail at a time, which has been another effective tool in driving the readers forward. This slowness has also set a creeping atmosphere that goes well with the horrors of the tale.

            The story doesn’t have a big array of characters. This is a good thing, because all the characters actually have significant roles in the story, and not a single one is just there as a background character. Each of them witnesses or experiences the eerie events of the story, with matching personality and character development. This makes the events much more eerie, because the consequences and effects to the characters are imposing.

Different book covers of the story

            The story has left points that have not been thoroughly explained and details from the mystery that have yet to be revealed. But this doesn’t mean the story feels incomplete. It is complete. If anything, the lack of explanation is its greatest weapon as a horror story. It offers a fear that is universal to humanity -- fear of the unknown. This universal fear is what the monster of this story represents so well.

            Overall, The Colour Out of Space is a great read. It’s a mix of science fiction, horror, and mystery, which is a combination that effectively wakes us up that we don’t know everything about this universe, that there are things in nature that we are yet to discover and witness. Recommended read for those who love classics, scif-fi, and horror.

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