Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, The by H. P. Lovecraft

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Book Information  
AuthorH. P. Lovecraft
TitleDream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, The
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by Constantine XIII 
(Feb 25, 2005)

Like many of the other stories in Lovecraft's "Dream Cycle", DQoUK follows the adventures of Randolph Carter, a long time inhabitant of the Boston area who is the descendant of escapees from the Salem Witch Trials. Carter lives up to his heritage, being both sensitive to little known forces of nature and well-versed in eldritch, forgotten lore. Through his dreams, Carter is able to reach a world full of beauty and wonder which he finds so sorely lacking in the waking world.

His normal nightly reveries are interrupted, however, by strange visions of a beautiful sunset city. Whenever he tries to enter this city, however, he is cruelly snatched away, back to conscious reality. His desire to live in that city consumes him to the point where he determines that he will ask the gods themselves why they keep him from such a wondrous place, and sets off to find their onyx castle which sits upon unknown Kadath, a fearsome mountain the frozen waste.

As Lovecraft readers know, the gods are dangerous beings, best avoided and never to be offended, lest one be beset by cosmic horrors best described by words fit to make a Webster's thesaurus tremble with unspeakable, mind-tearing fear. That is what makes Carter such a great hero, in my humble opinion. Lovecraftian horror often focuses on how tiny and insignificant mankind is compared to the powers that truly rule the universe, and how he copes (or, more often than not, fails to cope) when confronted with this truth. Unlike most of humanity, however, Carter spits in its eye and charges to meet it. Readers can't help becoming attached to the protagonist as he quickly gets in over his head, wading through everything the Lovecraftian cosmos can throw at him, short of Chulhu's own unholy kitchen sink.

Submitted by Anonymous 
(Oct 19, 2003)

I'm glad somebody finally put Lovecraft in the reviews section, especially since s/he picked my favorite Lovecraft story. What a surprise, because as far as I can tell, Dreamquest isn't usually a fan favorite. It's great, though. I'd compare it to books like Voyage to Arcturus, Phantastes and The Silmarillion and to movies like Time Bandits, Baron Munchausen and Evil Dead 2. Why? Because the plot is NOT carefully structured, which allows for the storyteller's imagination to go wherever it will. Sound too chaotic? Well, it IS rather random storytelling. You'll just have to go along if you want to enjoy it. The plot doesn't matter; like Alice in Wonderland and Labyrinth, the plot is less important than the world it takes place in.
Sometimes Lovecraft's writing seems amateurish, but he always compensates by creating a dreamy feeling that few writers have ever matched. Dreamquest may be the best example of this. You'll find it in the horror section of the bookstore, but it's more fantasy.

Submitted by czar 
(Aug 01, 2003)

I'm surprised that there's no mention of Lovecraft in this section, though I guess his status as a cult horror author might not bring him to people's minds when they thin of sci-fi/fantasy (though these elements are both quite prevalent in his work).
The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath, though short, is about as dense a reading experience as I've ever had. In it Lovecraft, inagurably the single greatest conjurer of dreadful atmosphere the horror field has ever known, proves himself quite the fantasy tale crafter. As with all of Lovecraft's works, a rich and noisome atmosphere is the horrific backdrop to strange and unspeakable things. In this novel, a grim fantasy dreamworld is explored by the protagonist in search of a lost idyllic paradise. Page after page of arresting imagery fill this disorienting travelogue. Lovecraft's unparalleled ability to conjure the wicked essence makes the journey grim and oppressive and the vistas he reveals- the face on the mountain, the gravel quarry, the skeleton on the ship sunken below crystal clear water, the maze in the darkness, etc. are forever painted in my mind.
While one could criticize the lack of characterization in this book, the inhuman nebulousness is part of what makes it so dreamy- see also Lord Dunsany's work (which influenced Lovecraft greatly). Somehow, in less than one hundred and fifty pages, H.P. Lovecraft has mangaged to create and epic tale (as opposed to many long books which a merely long, episodic books) and a unique and grim world. His short stories are my favorite works (esp. The Whisperer in the Darkness, The Hound, Dreams in the Witch House, Rats in the Walls, & The Call of Cthulu), but The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath is the best of his three novels.

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