Like so many Saturday Night Live skits that were turned into movies, Shakespeare v Lovecraft demonstrates that a concept that can be funny and insightful in small doses often becomes cumbersome and overblown when you try to take it onto a larger stage. This horror comedy mash up combines Shakespeare’s The Tempest (with cameos and guest appearances from the characters of Henry VIII, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and others) with the mind-destroying machinations of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones (of which everyone’s favorite Destroyer of Sanity, Cthulhu, takes the central role).
As a fan of both The Bard’s work and Lovecraft’s Mythos, I wanted to enjoy this book. The story of the magician Prospero is a good choice for this sort of experiment, as it seems a natural fit for the Mythos. Unfortunately, the delivery does not live up to the promise.
Much of the prose reads like it was written by someone whose only contact with the subject matter was via Cliff Notes (or Wikipedia). The basic academic points are there, but what is missing is the actual spirit of the works. It lacks Shakespeare’s lyrical prose. It lacks Lovecraft’s dark foreshadowing. There are points where the author stacks adverbs on top of adverbs in a way that left me unclear if he was just doing a poor job of emulating Shakespeare’s style or outright mocking it.
And while I never expected the book to actually achieve the literary heights of Shakespeare or Lovecraft, I did at least expect it to be funny. I can forgive overblown writing if you at least make me smile with a clever observation or a witty bit of satire. While there are a few moments where I chuckled, for the most part the narrative is dry and unentertaining.
Reviewer note: My review is based off of a digital comp galley copy of this book