“The Colour Out of Space”, Lovecraft’s seminal tale of cosmic horror, is an absolute favorite of this weird scrivener. It is a tale which has lingered in my mind ever since I first consumed it some twenty years ago, and which entices me back to at least one annual reread. When I learned that Jonathan Thomas (a writer whom I greatly admire and whose two short story collections, Midnight Call and Tempting Providence, I hold as textbooks on how to construct an effective weird tale) was working on a novel that envisioned Lovecraft’s “colour” into the present, I was enthused to say the least. Knowing how strong Thomas is in the short story mode, I was curious to see how he handled a novel-length treatment.
I was not disappointed. Indeed, The Color Over Occam is one of the most enjoyable narratives I have read in a long, long while. Thomas’ talents are mind-altering. I could not help but think that if Lovecraft was working in the current day and age he might very well be writing in a mode similar to Thomas. Smart, funny, satiric, idiosyncratic, erudite. Thomas, like Lovecraft, is a brilliant storyteller, whose ability to turn a phrase is, in my humble opinion, unrivaled in the field of weird fiction or, alas, in Ivory Tower territory. Here is an author who has studied literature and life for many a year and who, like some venerable sage, has only now begun to bestow us with the gifts of his learning.
The novel takes as its main protagonist an Occam civil servant named Jeffrey Slater, who in his free time is an amateur paranormal sleuth. The opening of the novel finds Slater and his companion investigating the Gorman County reservoir (the very reservoir which was hinted at in the finale of Lovecraft’s tale) for “corpse-lights” which have become visible therein. This is a perfect set-up in which to re-introduce the nefarious “color”, and the remainder of the novel follows its gradual infiltration (via the water supply) into Occam’s organic life, to horrifying effect. Thomas, it must be said, is a master of horror and humor, and I found myself experiencing both emotions throughout. A delectable combination, I must say, a sort of cosmic comicism. Thomas is also a master of characterization, and Slater’s cool reserve and pop culture hipness bears comparison to the unique souls who roam the work of Thomas Pynchon and Haruki Murakami.
While it is clear that Thomas was greatly inspired by “The Colour Out of Space”, he makes the story entirely his own. Unlike most “mythos” novels I have read, Thomas does not rely too heavily on “mythos speak”, as it were. Indeed, the novel could easily be read and enjoyed without having prior knowledge of the story which informed it.
When the compulsion grows (like that damnable “color”) to revisit Lovecraft’s masterwork, I shall do so in conjunction with Thomas’ own.
The Color Over Occam is currently available from Miskatonic Books, and published by Arcane Wisdom Press.