What I’m Reading: The Review of Charles Dexter Ward

“OGTHROD AI’F
GEB’L-EE’H
YOG-SOTHOTH
‘NGAH’NG AI’Y
ZHRO!”
-Mystical Psychobabble from the story.

Thanks for the word-salad, Lovecraft. In all seriousness, read that aloud, in a dark room, it’s wholly chilling.

This was a very long, but very rewarding read. Here’s your obligatory spoiler warning:

Now that that’s out of the way:

Characters. The characters in Charles Dexter Ward are very well done, from the titular character, to the man I consider the actual protagonist, Marinus Willett (voted #1 most unlikely name for a badass), to the antagonist, Joseph Curwen.

The characterization is incredible. He introduces Charles Ward, and eases the reader into the mystical by route of Ward’s antiquarian proclivities and growing interest in the occult. The details of the town are absolutely astounding, and it’s easy to see that Lovecraft has either done his research or crafted an absolutely incredible fictional history of this town. By the time that anything definable as magic is introduced, my suspension of disbelief had been utterly lulled into complacence.

The story builds through Ward’s descent into madness, after which Willett becomes the story’s torch-bearer. He explores the hidden stygian crypt where Ward, and Curwen before him, performed dread experiments. Through abject terror and a fluke of memory, Willett learns the key to later victory.

At the climax, the whole mystery untangles in a climactic battle between Willett and Ward’s ancestor, Curwen, which Willett wins by using the quote at the top of this entry, which apparently owns the hell out of multicentennial wizards. Of all the Lovecraft that I’ve read, the climax of this story was by far the most definite and satisfying.

I do object to Lovecraft’s constant use of the word Singular. It is singularly annoying how often he uses this singular word as an adjective when he hasn’t a singular clue what other word to use. (Is my point made yet? Can I move on?) Seriously. This adjective doesn’t add anything, it just beefs up the word count. Stop it.

Oh dear, I’m lecturing a dead author again, aren’t I?

Anyways, although it took several hours, it was a great read. If you like a good, immersive, tense story: read this. It is excellent structurally and represents a perfect balance of Lovecraft’s beloved themes of creeping madness, victory at a terrible cost, or inevitable defeat, and a definite and wholly satisfying though short term victory.

Seriously. Read it. It’s intellectual commons, you can run a search for it online and it’ll come up for free. You won’t regret it (unless your tastes are completely different from mine).

You can read it as part of the collection below if you like the smell of paper, or google it since it’s public domain:
The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (Knickerbocker Classics)

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