H.P. Lovecraft’s The Alchemist: Humble Beginnings

Ah, H.P. Lovecraft. One of the many artists who only got the appreciation they deserved after their time. The man single-handedly defined cosmic horror as a genre, with works such as The Mountains of Madness and Call of Cthulu.

Nowadays, Lovecraft has a unique entertainment empire. Radio dramas, board games, tabletop RPGs, video games, the list goes on and on. It’s so extensive at this point that some people know them better than the works of the original author. Many people know of the Necronomicon and Cthulu. But the name H.P. Lovecraft may raise some questions.

Today, I’m going to begin a journey. One of cosmic horror so terrible it is beyond description. I’m making my way through the original works of H.P. Lovecraft. And I’ll try my very best not to point out how racist he was.

Starting with his first published work: The Alchemist.

Our protagonist is Count Antoine de C. Hundreds of years ago, his ancestor killed Michel Mauvais, a dark wizard. In an act of revenge, the wizard’s son, Charles le Sorcier, cursed the family to all die at the age of 32. Now, on Antoine’s 32nd year, he faces the curse: the immortal Charles le Sorcier himself!

H.P. Lovecraft was never a very character-oriented writer. People were never really his thing. And you can tell when reading his early work. Because these characters are about as deep and interesting as a piece of paper. They have no personality. Like, literally none. It’s hard not to imagine them as words on a page rather than a living, breathing person experiencing a story.

It doesn’t help that the ending is incredibly abrupt and unsatisfying. It feels like the third act is about to begin and then… it just ends. It feels like its missing pages. It’s super unsatisfying. If the story weren’t so short, it would be downright infuriating. But due to its length, it’s just disappointing.

This story also lacks the signature cosmic horror that Lovecraft would be known for later in his career. It’s more focused on magic than cosmic elements, even then not very. And it just doesn’t have anything very horrifying. An immortal, vengeful idiot is hardly that disturbing or frightening. At least not in comparison to anything within the Necronomicon.

Overall, I find The Alchemist to be pretty boring. If it didn’t have Lovecraft’s name attached to it, I wouldn’t have bothered. And now that I have, I can safely say that I never want to bother with it again. Nor should you. Just go to one of his more interesting works, like Call of Cthulu or Mountains of Madness.

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