Reviews > Published on February 16th, 2016

Bookshots: 'Lovecraft Country' by Matt Ruff

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Lovecraft Country

Who wrote it?

It turns out that even many-tentacled void hounds are nowhere near as scary as white people in Jim Crow America.

Matt Ruff, author of Bad Monkeys, a very different, but equally entertaining book.

Plot in a Box:

An African-American family living in Jim Crow America struggles to survive not just hostile white people, but ghosts, monsters, sorcerers, and the Elder God Cthulhu as well.

Invent a new title for this book:

Clash with the Cthulhu Clan

Read this if you like(d):

H.P. Lovecraft and the many works he inspired, obviously. If you enjoyed Shotguns vs. Cthulhu, this won’t disappoint.

Meet the books lead(s):

Atticus Turner, a young black man who just finished serving his country overseas. He’s smart, loves science fiction, and has a pretty understandable chip on his shoulder.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:


Setting: Would you want to live there?

Jim Crow America doesn’t sound like a nice place to visit, and that’s before you add the unspeakable cosmic terrors.

What was your favorite sentence?

But stories are like people, Atticus. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You try to cherish their virtues and overlook their flaws. The flaws are still there, though.

The Verdict:

Lovecraft Country is a Southern African-American family epic with the mythos of Cthulhu woven in. It is told as a series of vignettes, each focusing on a different family member or friend as they brush against the unknowable horrors from beyond. Like its namesake, the book throws rational people into the deep end against eldritch powers. Where it differs is that Atticus and his family never lose their sanity, no matter how crazy the shit gets. But the most terrifying moments in the story don’t come courtesy of the monsters. It turns out that even many-tentacled void hounds are nowhere near as scary as white people in Jim Crow America. Matt Ruff is to be commended for combining two genres that I couldn’t have considered further apart before now, and doing justice to both. You’ll come for the sci-fi, and stay for the history lesson.

About the author

BH Shepherd is a writer and a DJ from Texas. He graduated from Skidmore College in 2005 with degrees in English and Demonology after writing a thesis about Doctor Doom. A hardcore sci-fi geek, noir junkie and comic book prophet, BH Shepherd has spent a lot of time studying things that don’t exist.  He currently resides in Austin, where he is working on The Greatest Novel Ever.

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