Review of At the Mountains of Madness (1936)
H. P. Lovecraft (writer).
With the mountains—huge, stable and eminently observable—Lovecraft finally breaks out of the weird tale mold and into science fiction proper. It’s a techno-thriller of Antarctic exploration, with predictable history-altering consequences considerably larger than the general fever antidote in “The Last Test” (1928), and more believable detail than “The Mound” (1930).
Appropriately, there is a practicality, intelligence and nobility to the Elder Things that puts them well above mere monsters. Not evil, they are instead “fearfully great” in the manner that ancient Greek tragedians called deinos. I would have liked for their society to be fleshed out more. The whole story is quite schematic, with the undescribed final horror and turn against scientific curiosity merely tacked on. Lovecraft sneaks in his last great celebrations of Poe: The eery cry of the natives from The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838), and lines from “Ulalume” (1847).