Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Going Monstering, by Edward Lee, was written in 2010 during his Lovecraft or cosmic horror phase. Other novels within this vein include Trolley No. 1852, The Haunter of the Threshold, and The Innswich Horror. All of these novels take creatures and concepts from the Cthulhu Mythos, developed by H. P. Lovecraft, and add gratuitous amounts of Lee’s trademark sex, violence, and gore into the narratives.
Going Monstering is arguably the least horrific of the group, but also possibly the most shocking and perverse. It follows a group of three initiates trying to join Alpha House Sorority. Ann, Hannah, and Mercy are young women that up to this point have lived socially awkward lives. However, things are about to get much worse as their new sisterhood forces them to participate in an endless assortment of meaningless and sexually degenerative tasks culminating on the last evening of initiation with the women “going monstering.”
Little do the three know, but the sorority is actually tied to Warlock Joseph Curwen from Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. All of the mythology and major plot points associated with this tale, as well as references to other stories in the Cthulhu Mythos, are interwoven into Going Monstering. Lee lovingly explains how Curwen’s research into essential salts and the Necronomicon is tied to the sorority. Then, he uses these concepts to deliver scene after scene of sorority girls providing fellatio and having anal intercourse with animals and hobos. There is eventually a shoggoth, but the role the creature plays is not much different than that of Arkham’s basketball team.
Lovecraft must be rolling over in his grave. Even taken with a grain of salt, Going Monstering is the blackest of the black comedy. Ann, Hanah, and Mercy will do anything to enter Alpha House and the only thing for certain is that each trial will be more shocking and repugnant than the one that came before it.
While Lee’s knowledge of the Cthulhu Mythos is masterful, the work largely fails to horrify the reader. The women are not forced to partake in these tasks. They choose to participate to gain acceptance into the desirable group. Perhaps the true horror lies in the idea that conformity and acceptance are such strong motivators they can overcome logic and reason. However, that is digging hard to find meaning in a story that describes at length a woman licking another woman’s unwashed anus.