That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley

Retro Review

That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley
Horror Short Story Collection, 260 Pages
Miskatonic University has a long-whispered reputation of being strongly connected to all things occult and supernatural. From the faculty to the students, the fascination with other-worldly legends and objects runs rampant. So, when Carter Weston's professor Dr. Thayerson asks him to search a nearby village for a book that is believed to control the inhuman forces that rule the Earth, Incendium Maleficarum, The Inferno of the Witch, the student doesn't hesitate to begin the quest. 

Weston's journey takes an unexpected turn, however, when he ventures into a tavern in the small town of Anchorhead. Rather than passing the evening as a solitary patron, Weston joins four men who regale him with stories of their personal experiences with forces both preternatural and damned. Two stories hit close to home as they tie the tellers directly to Weston's current mission. 

His unanticipated role as passive listener proves fortuitous, and Weston fulfills his goal. Bringing the book back to Miskatonic, though, proves to be a grave mistake. Quickly, Weston realizes he has played a role in potentially opening the gate between the netherworld and the world of Man. Reversing the course of events means forgetting all he thought he knew about Miskatonic and his professor and embracing an unknown beyond his wildest imagination.

Disclaimer: This is a Lovecraftian influenced novel and I have never read H.P. Lovecraft. I have only seen some of the film adaptations made in the 80’s because my boyfriend was silly enough to let me choose the movies we rented back then. Yes, back then when one had to travel to an actual video store to rent a movie. From Beyond, Re-Animator, The Unnamable? How I loved them so but I’m guessing these flicks probably took some liberties with Lovecraft’s work.

This book may take liberties with Lovecraft’s intentions too or it may not. Diehards will know the truth, but me? Hell if I know. What I do know is that, like many a themed short story collection, this one has a few that I enjoyed a little more than the others but there weren’t any duds and the style remains consistent throughout.

It’s written in what I’m assuming is Lovecraftian style (as if I would know). It’s heavy on the descriptive and atmospheric prose, the characters are typically intelligent fellows or hard-laboring types and the cast is almost entirely made up of these men with an occasional woman (usually with bad intentions) making an appearance. It’s all about the men encountering strange, unearthly madness inducing monsters. All of the stories are tied together by a legendary evil and a book that can bring forth the end of times for humankind. Creepy stuff, oh yes, you will find it here.

The basic story wrap-around story that binds them all together, is one of a young, eager scholar who sets out to retrieve a legendary book after he’s asked to do so by a professor he admires. A storm arrives and he’s stranded in a pub with a bunch of men who all have tall tales to tell. Strangely convenient coincidence or Cthulu’s influence? Again, hell if I know.

The men share their tales which are basically retellings of some of these classic horror gems.

*Insane Asylum
*Creepy Convent
*Ghost Ship

They’re all quietly creeptastic and it’s easy to see where a few of them are going if you read too much horror as a kid. I’d have to say the Wendigo might be my favorite but I also loved the slow build of the asylum tale where the inmates far outnumber the staff and a young newbie is told, most ominously, "They are in charge. We just do what we can." Yikes, you just know some bad shit is going to go down but it doesn’t happen in a predictable way.

All of the stories are enjoyable if you’re in the mood for atmosphere and a slower pace and the wrap around story ties it all together so it never feels like a bunch of shorter stories tossed in for whatever reason. They all interlock together nice and neatly and are genuinely unnerving.


  1. I just read Little Heaven and many of the critics have mentioned how it's very Lovecraftian. Having not read any HP Lovecraft novels, I wouldn't know where the assimilation starts. Is it because it's an old-school gore-fest? Not sure. Lol.

    1. I haven't read Little Heaven yet but does it feature Old Gods, stodgy men or tentacles? If so, that's what I've seen of Lovecraft so far! I still need to read more. The only I've read so far was about awful people and cats. I loved it :)

  2. I have to admit, this one sounds like something I might like. I have an obsession with tentacles so Lovecraft should be right up my alley. I just finished Little Heaven and like Joyous Reader, not sure what qualifies it as Lovecraftian, but it does have old gods and tentacle-like things. The cover of this one is really good as well.

    BTW, watched a movie this weekend you might like - The Autopsy of Jane Doe. We kept skipping over it until I saw Stephen King talking about how much he liked it so we gave it a go - glad we did!

    1. It gets a little slow here and there so you have to be in the mood for that.

      Thanks for the rec. We've been looking for that movie everywhere and I see it's on Amazon streaming now. I'll have to make some time in-between painting kitchen cabinets to give it a watch this weekend. We've been binging on Black Mirror.

  3. I haven't read any Lovecraft either. Not sure if I have watched any movies but I remember checking out some weird stuff at the video rental store. This does sound like something that I would enjoy.

    1. There were a bunch of them made in the late 80's, early 90's. Re-animator, From Beyond - weird stuff like that.

  4. Sounds like my kind of reading. And how can I resist that cover.

    1. I know, right?! I hope you enjoy it, if you get to read it.

  5. Gotta love a Wendigo! I have never read Lovecraft and never really wanted to as the books I've tried that were inspired by Lovecraft have been disappointing. So while I like the plot, the Lovecraft thing is putting me off!

    1. It is a little slow and overly descriptive. I had to be in a mood for it.


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