Literary mashups are very popular at present. You only have to look at Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to see the success of such crossovers. I have always enjoyed this sort of material along with the alternative history genre as in such books as Fatherland and The Two Georges. So the prospect of Shakespeare vs. Lovecraft naturally interested me and I was very curious to see how author D. R. O’Brien would interweave the works of the immortal bard with those of the master of the eldritch. Well I’m pleased to say that the results are suitably bizarre, baroque and amusing.
Shakespeare vs. Lovecraft presents the reader a series of short interconnected vignettes featuring classic characters and events from Shakespeares work and then places a very Lovecraftian slant upon them. Although it is beneficial to be auxfait with both authors work, there is no requirement for you to be an expert in either. A fact I found very re-assuring as my last dealings with Shakespeare was over twenty years ago. In the books opening chapter, we are offered a new interpretation of The Tempest. This time Prospero does more than unleash a storm upon his brothers ship, but unlocks the doors of R’lyeh themselves. His daughter Miranda rebels at such madness and struggles to restore balance.
During the course of the novella, the reader discovers how the forces of the Elder Gods impact upon the Shakespearean world. King Henry V battles noble conspirators who have succumbed to the cult of Cthulhu. Richard, Duke of Gloucester experiments with re-animation. Among the victims of these unholy resurrections, are both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Romeo discovers that Juliet is not the girl she use to be and Macbeth learns the true meaning of the prophecy “none of woman born shall harm Macbeth”. It is all very inventive, clever and ghoulishly entertaining.
Author D. R. O’Brien successfully manages to blend the worlds of both Shakespeare and Lovecraft to the right degree. The narrative is inventive and offers the reader plenty of interconnected references to both writers bodies of works. Yet is never over reaches itself or becomes too clever. The tone between horror and drama is maintained well and punctuated with the right degree of levity. “Is this a Shoggoth which I see before me” and similar such quips ensure that pretension is kept at bay. The novella itself clocks in at a one hundred plus pages and is an ideal length, neither outstaying its welcome nor failing to do justice to it’s own high concept.
There is a degree of snobbery in some quarters regarding e-books and internet distribution, which I do not hold with. I think that this market can provide some very entertaining and good value products and Shakespeare vs. Lovecraft is clearly one of them. Author D. R. O’Brien demonstrates an understanding and a love for both Shakespeare and Lovecraft in his novella and that is in no way lessoned simply by the medium by which it is available. Shakespeare vs. Lovecraft proves to be a very entertaining read that keeps its audience guessing as to what Shakesperean anecdote it will next blend mix with the Cthulhu Mythos. It has a pleasant style and turn of phrase which suits its idiom without smothering it. The author understands the subtleties of both Shakespeare’s and Lovecraft’s work, successfully blending them with confidence and wit. What more could you ask from a literary mashup?