At The Mountains Of Madness

  1. Extollager

    Extollager Well-Known Member

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    I love nuggets like that, and I know some other people who also do. I will pass this on (with that h/t to you!).

    I used to think that there was no awareness, on the part of Lewis or Tolkien, of HPL & Co., and vice versa, but as time passes, one sees that there was at least a little. "Influence" -- no; but some awareness.
     
    Mar 4, 2013
    #61
  2. StilLearning

    StilLearning Well-Known Member

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    I don't think there's a strong direct comparison, but I see what you mean: Both lay down much of the lore of their respective worlds, and when I read both I found them fascinating without much in the way of an emotional punch.
     
    May 28, 2013
    #62
  3. kythe

    kythe Well-Known Member

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    I just finished "At the Mountains of Madness", and it was the first Lovecraft story I've read that really didn't impress me.

    It's so heavy on description that it can be hard to find the story. Much of the text is repeated vague words such as "nameless", "formless", "horror", "fear", "indescribable", etc. I know its a writing style, but it doesn't work for a main character who is a scientist. His job as a geologist is analyzing what he finds, but the repetition and lack of description makes him seem paranoid and uneducated.

    Speaking of paranoia, the book describes the characters' feelings of fear much more than what they are actually afraid of. There are a lot of references to "terrible" things that are actually natural phenomenon, like mountains, caves, rocks, and animals. Only toward the end do we see anything "supernatural", and many of those references are understood only in the context of the rest of Lovecraft's mythos.

    Others in this thread have discussed a lack of direction in atMoM. I really like the thorough history of the Old Ones and Shoggoths - it gives a larger perspective to some of Lovecraft's other stories. But for all the "horror", I'm unclear as to what we are supposed to be afraid of. At first the characters are shocked and horrified at the existence of an advanced civilization predating (and maybe creating) all other life on Earth. Yes, this certainly rocks your world if you've never entertained that thought, and I think that idea was very unpopular in the 1930's. But then they come to believe the Old Ones are actually rather like humans and they come to respect them. Then they fear the Shoggoths because the Old Ones were somewhat negative about the Shoggoths at times. This is an opinion based only on stories told by the Old Ones, yet no bias is considered. Then they meet weird deformed penguins who seem to add nothing significant to the story. They do see a Shoggoth as well as other "nameless things", but are not personally harmed by any of these things.

    The real horror of the story is what happened to the camp. An entire camp of men and dogs killed and dissected in strange ways, yet this is nearly overlooked as a plot point, rather than as a terror in itself. The bodies weren't even returned or spoken of beyond the vaguest terms.

    And who killed them - the Old Ones or the Shoggoths? Who is the real enemy, or is it the worse terror beyond the mountains? Maybe the whole thing is a figment of the survivors' imaginations, hence the term "mountains of madness".
     
    Nov 15, 2014
    #63
  4. Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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    He has had quite an earth-shattering experience, so his use of some over-the-top language must be excused.

    Well, look at Gothic fiction, in which Nature itself is described as awe-inspiring.

    The shoggoth uprising destroyed their civilisation -- I think their bias was well-founded. Also Dyer and Danforth were clearly in danger from the shoggoth, so they had every reason to be afraid of it.

    The thawed Old Ones -- this is made quite clear.

    Well, the dissected bodies and the weird five-pointed burial mounds over the dead Old Ones at the camp can't be figments of anyone's imagination.
     
    Nov 17, 2014
    #64
  5. kythe

    kythe Well-Known Member

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    True, and it is written into the story that Dyer expects not to be believed. He wouldn't be, in scientific circles.



    The Shoggoth do become enemies of the Old Ones, but this still doesn't define "good guys" and "bad guys". Throughout history, many civilizations have overtaken others. Not always through war, but in some way or other, all civilizations fall and others emerge to take their place. On a larger evolutionary scale, entire species come and go, usually on a timetable of a few million years. The Old Ones exist on an even grander scale - having evolved on a different world, then spent 500 million years here. Yet even they are coming to an end. This is partly because their own creation - the Shoggoths - evolved and are overthrew them. But they were in decline in technology anyway. For instance, they had lost spaceflight ability and had retreated from other invaders as well. They live on a more "cosmic" scale than our evolution.

    And this is part of why I don't understand why Dyer starts sympathizing more with the Old Ones after reading their history. If it truly was the thawed Old Ones who killed their party, it is clear that both Old Ones and Shoggoths do not value humans and have no qualms about destroying them. Both should be seen as a threat to humanity. The Shoggoth did chase them at the end, but the only creatures who actually killed humans were the Old Ones.


    Dyers & co did not preserve either the bodies of the men and dogs or of the Old Ones. He also states he believes the photos and drawn pictures may be declared to be faked. So without evidence of these events, Dyer expects it to be claimed to be figments of their imagination.
     
    Nov 18, 2014
    #65
  6. Ningauble

    Ningauble Lovecraftian

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    Of course it was the thawed Old Ones who killed Lake's party! There are so many hints of this that any other interpretation simply isn't possible. Dyer starts sympathising with the Old Ones because they behaved like scientists dropped into a strange and inimical world:

    Key phrases: "Scientists to the last" and "what had they done that we we would not have done in their place?"

    Ah, now I see what you mean. I meant that it is clear that Dyer didn't imagine it. And it would be difficult for the rest of the expedition to share in such a big collective hallucination.
     
    Nov 19, 2014
    #66
  7. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    A Very creepy novel. I enjoyed it very much.(y)
     
    Feb 15, 2015
    #67
  8. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    The old Ones are , amoral rather then evil . The revived Old ones that encountered and vivisected members of the expedition, didn't see them as intelligent beings but as specimens to be examined. To them, human being were no more evolved then any other animal life form.
     
    Jul 29, 2015
    #68
  9. lynnfredricks

    lynnfredricks Well-Known Member

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    I think that's close to it. Don't forget that the men were effectively already doing the same to the frosty Old Ones. It is likely that they had no more concept of what humans and dogs were and were trying to figure that out, probably as quickly as possible. I don't think ascribing value based on evolutionary progress would figure into that, at that point - that would be an amoral (or in our minds, evil) judgement call - but likely would do so for their own reasons which are even more inscrutable.

    Anyway, these thawed out Old Ones were clearly extremely durable. Shoggoths are big blobby things. These are creatures that can take some serious punishment. So what's the matter with the funny little human and dog things - why can't they recover from a simple dissection? ;-)
     
    Aug 5, 2015
    #69
  10. StilLearning

    StilLearning Well-Known Member

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    Maybe I shouldn't admit to this, but I can empathise with the Old Ones fairly well: Imagine you've just woken up from a coma after who knows how long. You're in an unfamiliar arctic landscape, surrounded by alien entities - some on two legs, some on four. IIRC It's implied at one point (I'll re-read to be sure) that the sledge dogs broke out of their corral and might have tried to attack the reviving Old Ones (also they might have simply fled but IIRC it's not totally clear how the dogs reacted). So add to this that, as you struggle awake into this alien landscape, that the four legged aliens might have actually been trying to kill you. You then find that the two legged aliens have vivisected two of you friends. You're terrified and panicking.

    Not to put too fine point on it, I'd waste the ******* with extra extreme predjudice. Or, put less melodramatically, you and your companions are clearly under attack, you're disoriented and afraid, you've just seen your mates dismembered on a table - you're gonna lash out at anything that crosses your path and looks like the aliens that are attacking you. 'Where do they sit on the evolutionary scale' isn't going to cross your mind until you feel safe and your fear and anger have calmed a bit. Even then, empathy for the creatures that have done this to you will probably be the last thing on your mind - you'll want information on them so you can escape or fight more effectively.
     
    Aug 17, 2015
    #70
  11. BAYLOR

    BAYLOR There Are Always new Things to Learn.

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    The books slow pace and buildup actually works quite nicely.:)
     
    Jun 15, 2016
    #71
    Extollager and lynnfredricks like this.
  12. Arawak

    Arawak Member

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    I noticed that Mountains of Madness to run into the same mentality Olaf Stapledon had where the aliens last millions upon millions of years on end without really changing much. It feels like HP Lovecraft took the history of the Roman or Egyptian empire and stretched it out millions of years. I just find it hard to imagine how these Elder Things stayed in Antarctica for hundreds of millions of years, for all their adaptability, and never colonized any other part of the world. Wouldn't they have urbanized the whole world 499.999 million years ago? It's very interest how disconnected in terms of timescale current day "humans colonize and urbanize hundreds of planets within a few centuries" today's sci-fi likes to go (in popular culture anyways) is compared to "an ancient alien colonized Antarctica millions of years ago and never expanded and humans are a side-effect of their colonization. Look at this statue, they even had pet dinosaurs."

    It seems like a common 'thing' with aliens back in the early 20th century to have them spend millions of years on end in pretty much the same place. HG Wells I think also had martians who existed in deep time far longer than humans did. I recall HG Wells believing humans would become giant floating brain creatures in a million years. The Elder Things evidently had a cultural timelessness as great as the continents of Earth that only fell apart when their slaves took over. I just find that so weird. How did they do that? Not even Egyptians could do that, but these barnacle people who humans are implied to be related to could. The statues seem to imply they've been relatively the same over 500 million years, but how's that even possible? 500 million years is like, a lot of time. Dinosaurs (and their civilizations) came and went in all that time and they kept the same over the eons somehow. These elder things evolved less than rocks do. Stars came and went in this specie's existence. It's kind of insane how they stayed the same. Surely they'd evolve to further fit into the cities they built and it's not like their city kept things from evolving since you have those large albino penguins who adapted to the conditions the Elder Things had down there. With such huge amounts of time that seems like a possibility. Millions upon millions of years of history in that one city of theirs. So ancient that you have penguins evolutionary deviant from any penguin in modern Antarctica down there. How did they keep things from falling apart so long? I just don't understand. The modern world is chaotic and ephemeral, human civilizations are like mayflies compared to the civilization the Elder Things had. Romans were like yesterday for these people.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2016
    Jul 4, 2016
    #72
  13. lynnfredricks

    lynnfredricks Well-Known Member

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    They did colonize other parts of the world, and also the oceans. They lost some territory with their wars with other aliens. Don't forget also that when they arrived, the super continent Pangaea hadn't begun to break apart yet.

    What we know of our own human history and development of technology (as of today), some of the evidence seems odd. We know that they briefly toyed with a mechanized society but then discarded that (and by this, I assume the sort of tech focused society we have today). If some of their mistakes seem dumb (shoggoths going off program), we could speculate that being extremely different life forms, their priorities were entirely alien. But it seems clear if some of the features of their society seem a bit out of line with our expectations, HPL's goal seems to be to show the rise-to-fall of an entire similar-but-superior race as compared to that 'buffoon' monkey creature called man.
     
    Jul 6, 2016
    #73
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