David Hambling is the author of such Neo-Lovecraft novels as The Dulwich Horror and Tales of the Al-Azif. H.P. Lovecraft is an author who has spawned thousands of novels written in his universe and was notable for having willingly shared his creations with other authors while alive. For Howard Phillips, he believed that there was no harm in sharing his toys and for that I’ll always admire him. Mind you, I’d be an enormous hypocrite if I didn’t admire him for it since I’ve written Neo-Lovecraft novels myself.
The Elder Ice is the first entry in the Harry Stubbs series, which follows a World War 1 veteran and former boxer who finds himself dealing with the occult. It is actually better termed a novella, being just under a hundred pages or so. Indeed, I initially bought this book as part of The Harry Stubbs Adventures Volume 1, which collected The Elder Ice and its sequel Broken Meats. Due to the length of the first volume, I will be revealing the collected both stories as well as the commonalities between them.
David Hambling has a unique take on the Cthulhu Mythos with a much more reserved hand than is typical of Neo-Lovecraftian authors. Most of them assume since you know a work is in the Cthulhu Mythos that you will want to get to the monsters as soon as possible. This is the opposite of the way HPL wrote and removes a lot of the mystery involved. Instead, the monsters usually play only a minor role in the Harry Stubbs book as the majority of danger and threat comes from the implications of the monsters existing. Cultists, madmen, and the threat to the social order that the entire belief system of mankind being wrong are bigger threats than shoggoths.
I actually like this because it also explains why Harry Stubbs can be a protagonist for so many books. Usually, he only comes up against the edge of the Cthulhu Mythos rather than gets exposed to its sanity blasting reality. It prevents him from becoming a two-fisted action hero blowing up byakhee with dynamite and keeps the menace of the creatures intact.
The Elder Ice deals with Harry investigating the estate of a recently deceased explorer who may (or may not have) encountered proof of a prehuman civilization in Antarctica. The possibility for this to destroy Edwardian civilization results in the curious and fearful both to intervene in Harry’s life. Harry, himself, finds himself wondering if it’s lunacy or an opportunity–unaware how much danger he’s putting himself in. This serves as an extensive sequel to At the Mountains of Madness, which is one of Lovecraft’s best works.
Broken Meats takes Harry on an unusual journey as he finds himself serving as tour guide to a guest of the local Theosophical Society. Harry isn’t a dumb man but the esoteric nature of the 19th century occult group goes over his head. He soon finds himself immersed in a plot that involves alchemy, necromancy, a notorious Jack the Ripper suspect, and the Si-Fan of Sax Rohmer (that don’t actually exist). Here, the references are mostly to The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward but include many others to real-life British occultism.
Fans of H.P. Lovecraft’s work will enjoy these volumes and those who are new to the Mythos will still find them comprehensible. I do recommend you pick up the collected volume because I feel like The Elder Ice is more of a teaser than an actual complete story. I also enjoyed listening to all of the books on audio, though some may cite the length of them as a strike against them.
Buy The Elder Ice and Broken Meats by David Hambling