I love the format of these kinds of books. They’re basically coffee table books; light on content, big on design, and with a good dose of humor in between. They rarely work out that way though. Too often the humor is lazy, the writing is subpar, or the design isn’t all that great. It’s telling that these books are often written more by artists than writers. What to Do When You Meet Cthulhu (or When You Meet Cthulhu for short) has the opposite problem.
When You Meet Cthulhu divides H.P. Lovecraft’s work into geographies, categorizing each story in such a way that it feels like a guidebook. They are neatly summarized, with a bit of humorous asides thrown in.
The book is sparsely laid out, with large gray sidebars that take up most of the page. In fact, they’re on nearly every page. When You Meet Cthulhu consists almost exclusively of summaries of Lovecraft’s stories and top ten lists. Did I not mention the top ten lists? There are many. Reading these, I learned a few things.
- Don’t use a joke about poking anything with a stick more than once in a list.
- Don’t use a joke about sacrificing your friends more than once in a list.
- Do use artist Bryan Reagan’s art (AKA Zarono on eBay) in your book. His artwork is breathtaking.
- Do not allow your list to span two pages. This means it’s too long.
- Do not allow your list to span the front and back of a page. When you need to use (cont.) to keep track of the list’s contents you need to stop making lists.
- The summaries are useful; I actually learned a few things about Lovecraft’s stories I’d forgotten.
- The horror-by-geography format breaks down after the first few chapters and devolves into time-and-space musings, which is perhaps appropriate given the genre.
- The musings on why Cthulhu was so easily defeated in his origin story is rather amusing.
- Not all the lists are top ten lists. This is a bad idea because…
Author Rachel Gray definitely gets Lovecraft and from her frequent references to “investigators” is clearly a gamer. This book succinctly introduces Lovecraft’s writing style to a generation that’s likely expecting quite a bit more shock and gore. I just wish it was laid out in a more attractive format.
You can buy this book at Noble Knight Games.
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