I’ve never read a book by H.P. Lovecraft before and so when I was recommended to read this book, it seemed like a great opportunity to discover the man’s imagination and worlds. The novella was written in February/March 1931 and originally serialized in the February, March, and April 1936 issues of Astounding Stories magazine.
The story details the events of a disastrous expedition to Antarctica in September 1930, and what is found there by a group of explorers led by the narrator of the story Dr. William Dyer of Miskatonic University.
The book starts with lots of factual information about the geological strata and formation found in Antarctica, all of which is very interesting.
One section of the expedition, led by Professor Lake, heads off towards some previously unexplored mountains. When drilling down into the frozen ground, these explorers find 14 entities in a cave and not unnaturally being scientists, Lake (usually referred to as ‘poor Lake’ afterwards) dissects one of them. This information is conveyed to the other members of the expedition in various location across Antarctica.
Contact with the Lake expedition is lost, so Dyer and a student called Danforth fly to the location of the Lake camp, only to find the explorers and their dogs all slaughtered with one man and one dog missing. The are six graves nearby as well as the ruins of a massive city and Dyer and Danforth explore following a trail from Lake’s destroyed camp.
Dyer calls the builders of this city the “Elder Things” and the two men learn through sculptures and murals that the Elder Things first came to Earth shortly after the Moon took form. All this interpretation done instantly in dark places with torches is a little difficult to believe given the conditions the men are facing and without them ever eating anything or drinking anything at an altitude higher than Everest Base Camp. However, we continue. Dyer works out the Elder Things built their cities with the help of creatures called “shoggoths” whom they created.
Along the way, Dyer and Danforth discover all the missing equipment from Lake’s camp plus the bodies of the missing man and dog. They work out that of the 14 entities Lake discovered, 6 were buried but 8 came to life, slaughtered everything at the camp and gathered up the equipment plus the missing man and the missing dog. Dyer and Danforth then discover some Elder Things that have been decapitated as well as some massive penguins who have lost the use of their eyes in the darkness.
I think I’ll leave it at that as I don’t want to reveal the ending.