Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Fear Institute, by Jonathan L. Howard

Today I'm looking at the third book in the Johannes Cabal series, The Fear Institute. I know I've said in the past that I'm not sure quite what to think about this series because Johannes is such a questionable character but there's a certain wittiness about these books that makes them enjoyable to listen to as well. This book, however, is definitely different from the others. Not necessarily bad because it's got its own merits, but definitely different in tone and subject material.

In this book Johannes is approached by three gentlemen from the Fear Institute, an organization that seeks to eliminate irrational human fear forever. To do this they seek to employ Cabal as a guide in investigating the Dreamlands, a realm on the other side of sleep populated by both dreams and nightmares. Because access to the Dreamlands would be extremely beneficial for his ongoing researches, Cabal agrees to guide the gentlemen and then becomes involved in a rather odd adventure.

The plot of this book owes pretty much everything to Lovecraft. The Dreamlands are one of Lovecraft's multiple inventions and Cabal and the men from the Fear Institute head to Arkham, Massachusetts to enter the Dreamlands. Along the way they are pursued by Lovecraftian ghouls and references are made to C'thulu and Azathoth. Most importantly, Cabal calls upon the power of Nyarlathotep in a dicy situation and soon discovers he may have actually gotten the attention of the mad deity, which is never a good thing.

And I think that's really the problem for me with the book, I'm just not a big Lovecraft fan. I've read most of Lovecraft's original works and a small selection of Lovecraft-inspired stories and it's just...not for me. Obviously there's a big fandom that eats his stuff up but for whatever reason I just don't get the appeal. I think part of it is the whole, ''We're less than insignificant specks of dust on a cosmic scale'' thing. Which for me is, ''Whew, that's a whole lot off of my mind.'' And when it comes to elder gods beyond my comprehension I just...I can't spare the brain space to worry about them apparently. So since this is very much a Lovecraft story but with Cabal as the main character, I feel like I'm at a bit of a disadvantage with this book.

I also feel like some of the bitingly dry humor that was in the previous books and made me enjoy them was kind of lacking in this one. It may have just been a function of this basically being a Lovecraft story where humor doesn't work as well, but I'm not entirely sure. So ultimately I don't think this book is bad, just different and not exactly my area of interests.

If you like Lovecraft and you enjoyed the earlier Cabal books, you'd definitely like this one. But if Lovecraft isn't quite your cup of tea then this might just be an okay read at best.

- Kalpar

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