This volume, edited by Jim Turner, is an anthology of stories inspired by, tangential to, and slap bang in the middle of the Lovecraft universe. The oldest story in it, by Joanna Russ, dates back to 1964, but most were first published between the mid 80s and early 90s (the anthology itself was published in 1995). This being an anthology, some stories are stronger or more striking than others, but it was, on the whole, an enjoyable read.
A number of them cleave quite closely to Lovecraft’s mold (though most [but not all, thank the gods] ease off on his delightfully baroque and purple prose). In The Barrens (by F. Paul Wilson), for example, a woman follows the activities of an old love who has become obsessed with floating lights that may point the way to another world. He delves to deep into these chthonic mysteries and starts, gradually, to change… Great stuff.
Others have an ironic or postmodern twist. In Pickman’s Modem (by Lawrence Watt-Evans — see what he did there?), an idiot purchases a possessed modem that brings his trolling to a whole new level. In H.P.L. (by Gahan Wilson) a fan meets Lovecraft and discovers that all he wrote about was based on reality. These are the kind of thing you would expect to find in an anthology of this nature — they’re entertaining enough but they didn’t make much of a lasting impression.
My favourites were those that extrapolated in innovative and delicious ways from the source material. In particular, I liked Shaft 247 (by Basil Copper), a tale of weird suspense set in an opaque future where humanity lives in claustrophobic underground installations. What brought humanity to this state and what lives on the other side of the tunnels? In The Unthinkable (by Bruce Sterling), the Lovecraftian creatures that dwell in peripheries have been harnessed as weapons in an arcane cold war. In a world where cosmic horrors have pervaded every medium (comics [Hellboy] and music videos anyway), these two tales still seem fresh and interesting.
There’s a story in there by Gene Wolfe, an Anne Rice tinged tale by Poppy Z. Brite, and another (the rather delightful 24 Views of Mt Fuji, by Hokusai) by Roger Zelazny. All are well worth reading too. All in all, a great gift for the Dunwich horror in your life.