Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tales from Lovecraft Middle School by Charles Gilman

If you're the sort of person who likes rats mysteriously finding their ways into sealed lockers, thinks a heroic two-headed rat makes a fantastic addition to the cast, finds giant bugs in disguise deliciously creepy, and likes horror with a side helping of humor plus truly courageous and yet ordinary kids for main characters, and if you think throwing in  tentacled monsters,inter-dimensional portals, and secret plots makes things even more fun, then these books are for you.

In Professor Gargoyle Rob finds himself going to a brand new, beautiful school where he only knows a few of them--one of them Glenn, the school bully from his old school. An unexpected encounter with a multi-tentacled monster forces the two to join forces, and they find themselves becoming friends as they try to figure out just who the mysterious Master is and what his plans are. They are joined in the fight by Karina, a ghost now tied to the school, and an extremely intelligent two-headed rat, Pip and Squeak.  It's a delectable little snack with just the right balance of horror and humor.

In fact, it was so delicious that, after I finished gloating a bit over its wonderfulness(1), I sat right down and read The Slither Sisters at once, glad that for once I had the next book in the series on hand and didn't have to wait(2).

By The Slither Sisters,  the demonic forces are trying to take over the school by winning the election for student council president--and it makes sense, in context, that other-dimensional creatures are after a middle school. Rob and Glenn are learning the hard way that anyone and everyone might be a monster in disguise, making it hard to find allies in their fight against the otherworldly evils.

In Teacher's Pest, Rob finds he has trusted someone he shouldn't, and now he and his friends have to figure out how to stop his plans to expand the Master's plot to take over the world. Also, there is an invasion of bugs at the school. This time, they are ordinary-sized, but there are gargantuan numbers. Rob isn't sure how they fit the Master's plot, but he knows it isn't good. Trust continues to be a problem, and though he and his allies (including the school librarian, yay!) have found a way to combat the creatures individually, it isn't enough for wholesale combat.

I adore these books. They're perfect slices of fun and spookiness--and, yes, Lovecraftian mythos (The series' title and the mention of tentacled creatures likely gave you a clue or two there). The pacing is perfect, keeping things moving while giving enough information about this strange, spooky world. Also, the characterization is strong. I tend to be a little leery of "the school bully can be your best friend" stories, but there's plenty here to motivate Glenn and Rob's new partnership and move it on into friendship. Karina's a good character, too, dealing with the difficulties of being a ghost, trying to fight the person who is responsible for her death, and dealing with just plain boredom from being stuck at the school alone on long weekends. Pip and Squeak are far more delightful than a two-headed rat ought to be.

Also, the physical books are things of beauty. They are just the right size to hold, and they have covers that change as you move them. On one angle, you'll see the nice, friendly teacher or student. On the other, the darkness below is revealed. I don't entirely like the way these feel to the touch; they're a little unpleasantly scratchy, but the cover illustrations are worth it.

And, of course, there's a great trailer for the series, complete with spooky, Gothic music:

(1) I may have hugged the book and done a little jig in the room. There were no witnesses. I definitely have run around telling people about it.
(2) I keep promising myself that I'm going to review series decently and in good order instead of blasting through them. But these were good. Also, they were short. Nice, tasty, snacky things. Just one wasn't going to happen.

Links of Interest
The Lovecraft Middle School website
Professor Gargoyle on Amazon
The Slither Sisters on Amazon
Teacher's Pest on Amazon.
Substitute Creature (coming Sept 24, 2013) on Amazon.
Substitute Creature on the Quirk Books site. You can get a good look at the cover there as it changes.

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