Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Currently, Brian Keene is among the most well-known and respected names in horror literature. He has written numerous novels, novellas and short stories. In the process, he has tackled just about every subgenre horror. While many equate the name specifically with zombies, Keene has published as many, if not more, tales centered in the realm of cosmic horror.
Earthworm Gods, formerly published as the Conqueror Worms, is cosmic horror inspired directly from the works of H. P. Lovecraft. It is a novel derived from two of Keene’s most beloved novellas: “Earthworm Gods” and “The Garden Where My Rain Grows.” Earthworm Gods, the novel, stiches the two tales together and in the process fills out the narrative with additional content that links and expands upon the two previously published works.
In Earthworm Gods, it has begun to rain all over the globe. It rains nonstop without an end in sight. For believers, it is the flood intended to sweep away the sin of man. Coming in man’s wake, new life is emerging from an ancient slumber. These creatures include giant worms, kraken, mermen, and the white fuzz – a form of fungus which slowly eats away at all living things.
The story focuses on two groups of survivors: one atop a mountain in West Virginia and the other stranded on a skyscraper in Baltimore. Both groups deal with the monstrosities and the fanatical humans that worship them, while doing their best to endure the rising waters. However, in the end, will anything be enough to survive an apocalypse of biblical proportions?
Keene combines the spirit of Lovecraft’s cosmic horror with a modern writing sensibility. The result is a tale which is accessible to the reader while maintaining the pulp horror feel of the 1920s and 30s. Earthworm Gods feels, in many ways, similar to the way that Stephen King successfully accomplished this task in his novella, The Mist. Earthworm Gods stands on its own merits though as the two tales are not copies of one another, rather they share inspiration.
For lovers of the cosmic horror subgenre, Earthworm Gods is a must read. Is it Keene’s most successful work? Probably not. Ghoul and The Rising provide stronger narratives. The Rising, in particular, takes a good long look at the notion of faith, a theme that is also examined in Earthworm Gods. The take away from both The Rising and Earthworm Gods is eerily similar with both ending on what could be considered a fairly unexpected and optimistic note.
However, if you are expecting a satisfactory conclusion where everything is explained and presented in a nicely wrapped package, you are in for some disappoint. Earthworm Gods is a tale about the end of the world. Take solace in the hope provided to you, or if you are one who cannot survive on faith alone pick up the sequel Earthworm Gods II: Deluge. It will crush any hope you still have left.