Set a hundred years after the rising of the Great Old Ones had risen from their frozen slumbers and left their dark planes between worlds to wreak inestimable havoc and chaos on our planet, this book finds scattered groups of survivors wresting what little they can from their transformed and dying lands. In the blasted shards of our civilization, Recon and Extermination officer John Henry Booth is a dying man on an impossible mission: to seek out and kill the man who engineered the death of his squad… and who may have transformed him into an unspeakable evil along the way.
C.T. Phipps' Cthulu Armageddon is billed ostensibly as a Post-Apocalypse Western, but it’s not. It’s something completely different. It’s an amusement park ride. It’s a rollercoaster through a twisted Lovecraftian landscape, teeming with hungry demons and insane Gods. It's Mad Max meets Aliens, with a healthy dose of psychotropic hallucinogens and a really bad attitude.
The world of Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos has always been a fertile playground, complete with its apocalyptic foreboding of world-ending prophecies and monstrosities so gruesome and terrifying that a single look can drive a man to madness. But even in Lovecraft's best works, the horror is glimpsed only obliquely, often in shattered images of the narrator as their tenuous grip on sanity slips loose from the experience.
Told in Phipps' breathless macho prose, Booth confronts these horrors head on as he moves through this twisted, profane wasteland on his singular purpose, picking up allies and sacrifices alike, even while he faces his own looming transformation and he realizes these dark gods he seeks to destroy may have had their way with him.
Phipps keeps the action moving relentlessly forward, always giving enough information to keep the story clear and strong without weighing down his tale with forced exposition that would normally weigh down a book like this. And there’s so much potential backstory here! From the struggling societies and twisted religious cults to the bigotry and ruthlessness that seem to survive even after civilization has fallen to eldritch darkness and chaos. And all of it serves the story. With as wide as Phipps has cast his storytelling net, the pieces he’s pulled in are lush and full of fire and grit.
If you’re a fan of Lovecraft and dystopian fiction, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, the gothic writing of Robert Lumley, or you just like a good, fast-paced, well-told action piece, you’ll be well rewarded for the time you invest in this well-done thrill ride.
And you just might carry it with you into your dreams... or nightmares.
“I do not operate according to the rules of other men. I am the product of a hundred years of humanity winnowing away the fat off its military doctrines. I was trained under conditions which would kill most men. I was forged in situations where it was me or the other man, repeated endlessly.” I kept my finger on the trigger, visibly so. “Now, you are going to behave. Tell me who you are and why you’ve come or I’ll just have the women behind me kill your associates. Then, I will kill you.”
Verdict: FOUR-AND-A-HALF Tentacle-faced Elder Gods out of FIVE