Written by: Sheldon Woodbury
With his Outbreak trilogy, Scott Shoyer has already shown he can take what’s familiar, in this case zombies, and bring it howling back from the dead. Each book is horrific and gripping, fueled by a macabre imagination that never lets up.
With his new book, Horror in the Clouds, he’s done it again.
This time it’s a Lovecraftian tale set in a desolate town in the Midwest named Derleth. It begins two hundred years ago when the first settlers arrive in horse drawn wagons and the frontier town is borne. They’ve uprooted their tranquil lives, mysteriously summoned by a monstrous voice in their dreams.
It’s now present day and we meet up with the Squire family, a father, mother, and teenaged son driving cross country on Route 66. The mythic road is a part of American lore, but like the best Lovecraft stories, the landscape traveled is infinitely more haunting. The nightmare realm is part of the landscape, along with a cosmic beyond where unnamble terrors dwell. It’s all woven together in a twisted tapestry that honors the legacy of Lovecraft, but brings in something exciting and new.
There are eerie mysteries along the way, the most important of which is why the family is drawn to this isolated town where traveling tourists are sacrificed in the dead of night.
Apart from the scares, what makes the story even more powerful is the relationship of the family. The father is struggling with a gnawing darkness inside him he doesn’t understand, but his love for his wife and son becomes the emotional force he uses to fight it. Their love for each other is the pounding heart of the story.
Lovecraft has endured because his stories connect with our deepest fear about a stygian universe we barely know. There are cosmic horrors prowling the great beyond we are powerless to stop, and that’s where madness lies. That fear is on full display in Horror in the Clouds.
“An indescribable, amorphous mass of squirming tentacles of various lengths and sizes emerged from one of the green-blue-grey clouds. It moved with precision and determination. It wasn’t being drawn to the hole in the sky like a metal object to a magnet. It was moving towards the strange hole with determination – with intention.”
For me, the best part was the ending which is a cosmic showdown for nothing less than the fate of our world, pitting a puny human family against an otherworldly monster that wants to become the top of the food chain, and sacrifices will have to be made.
The book is filled with horror and dread, which would no doubt make Lovecraft roll over in his grave, but only to get more comfortable because he was enjoying the story so much.
I give this 5 eldritch tentacles out of 5!