It’s been quite some time since a book review has shown up here, and maybe it’s the right time again after writing about the sad death of Terry Pratchett to give the written word more space here, starting with Charles Gilman’s Tales From Lovecraft Middle School books, published by Quirk Books.
Is it possible to write a book series for young readers inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, an author whose work comprised many tales about insanity and monsters? Charles Gilman thinks so and even if the books seem at first to be riding on the Harry Potter hype, they’re quite different and succeed in many ways to entertain both young and older readers.
The mix of sinister and suspenseful happenings can already be seen in the first book, Professor Gargoyle, in which young student Rober Arthur discovers that something’s not quite right at his new school, starting from rats running rampant and suddenly fellow students disappearing. He soon finds out that there’s a plot involving the Old Ones and that his science teacher is more than the eye can see.
What makes the first book particularly worth reading is that despite the simple language and rather predictable character development, there are quite some surprisingly shocking moments which are further strenghtened with the use of vivid images in the pages themselves. The descriptions fit Lovecraft’s imagination, even if they’re not as elaborate or downright sick, although there are a few scenes not for the squeamish.
With only 168 pages, it’s quite easy reading and ends with a cliffhanger. But while it lasts, it’s entertaining enough to introduce the main characters and hint at more complicated and interesting things to come. Definitely a recommendation for those who’d like someting else than students with pointy hats.
The second book in the series, The Slither Sisters is a much better one due to a more compelling story and interaction with the main characters. It’s about students Sarah and Sylvia Price who want to become student council and who’re more than a bit scary with their methods and practices to hide a much bigger secret.
A darker sense of humor, some genuinely touching scenes with a school ghost, and also more surprising twists and turns make this book an improvement over the first one, as more time is spent on character and plot development, with fewer predictable narrative parts. Again it ends with a cliffhanger and sets the tone for a more epic continuation.
Book #3 with the title Teacher’s Pest continues from the surprising ending of the second instalment by introducing a council president who’s more sinister than all that came before him, turning the school into a bug-riddled infestation.
It’s much more twisted and also quite disgusting at some points. But it still keeps up that suspense of what is really behind the Lovecraft Middle School. A glimpse back into the past and some more plotting of the Other Side makes this a pageturner that might not be that surprising and developed as the first one, but still entertains enough to make the reader want to know what happens in the next book with the obligatory cliffhanger.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this series. Having read other more adult-orientated non-fiction by Quirk Books, Tales From Lovecraft Middle School is another interesting addition to the impressive cataloge. It’s also worth mentioning that in addition to the excellent illustrations, there is always a lenticular cover adorning the front with suitable people-turning-into-monsters motifs. Some of the best and scariest I’ve seen so far. This alone is worth the small asking price.
The individual books might be easy to finish in one afternoon (or night), but Gilman carved himself a niche all of his own.
Please check out this unique book trailer, making me personally looking forward to a real movie adaptation.
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