Cover of Summoned By Anne M. Pillsworth. A young man stands in front of a flaming demon

About the Book

Title: Summoned
Published: 2014

Cover Story: What’s With That Hair?
Drinking Buddy: Space Mead
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Intense Horror)
Talky Talk:  I Was Told There’d Be Suicidal Insanity…
Bonus Factors: Tome Raider
Bromance Status: Necronomicon in English. Now in paperback.

Cover Story: What’s With That Hair?

Oh, Sean, honey, it’s a good thing you summoned me. That spiked hair and the black wife-beater shirt…just let Nyarlathotep work his miracles, sweetie.

The Deal:

Imagine a world where H.P. Lovecraft was not a horror writer, but a guy who knew just a little too much about how the universe really worked. A world where Arkham and Dunwich are real New England towns. Where Miskatonic University is an actual institute of higher learning (I’d call it a safe school, but that might be a little ironic).

Sixteen-year-old Sean and his buddy Eddy (don’t you DARE call her Edna) are combing through a used book store like all good folks should. They find a newspaper clipping advertising for people interested in learning magic. E-mail for details.

The problem is, the clipping is dated 1895, a good ten years before AOL.

Sean can’t resist contacting this guy. It’s got to be some kind of joke, right?

Like all Lovecraftian stories, this ain’t over until we’ve summoned some nameless horror and threatened the human race.

Drinking Buddy: Space Mead

Two pints of beer cheersing

I’ll admit it, in college I was kind of Lovecraft obsessed. I’ve poked around in more than one used bookstore, looking for that autographed copy of Liber Ivonis or whatnot. And yes, I’ve vanished into the woods on the equinox with a white cockerel, an iron knife, and a candle, and returned only with the knife. Who hasn’t?

That’s why I can understand why Sean breaks his father’s rule about chatting with strange men on the internet. Sure, maybe this guy claims to be a three-hundred-year-old wizard. Well, we all lie online. And yes, maybe the guy commands Sean to perform certain rites…hey, he can pass it off as a school project. And yeah, maybe when he performs the ceremony, a nine-foot-tall winged man with blank eyes appears and tells Sean certain…secrets. Cool! He even has a new pet that only he can see…always…just behind his eyelids.

We’ve all been there. I can totally relate to Sean.

MPAA RATING: PG-13 (Horror)

Like any of the original Lovecraft story, Summoned combines bleak horror and mind-numbing violence with long periods of uncomfortable silence, just waiting for the next mutilated body. If we’re lucky, it’ll just be an animal. Sean and Eddy end up lurking around a lot of tombs, weird businesses, and abandoned houses. Good, creepy stuff.

But then there’s the other side of the testosterone coin. Eddy is a true bad ass. She’s mentally balanced, warning Sean against getting in too deep and using deductive reasoning to figure out their next steps. And she’s intensely loyal and protective of Sean, charging in with a baseball bat to attack a creature that’s proven impervious to gunfire.

Um, Sean? Maybe there’s another mystery you could be exploring.

Sean and Eddy have been friends since kindergarten, and they laugh when Eddy’s mother insists they leave her bedroom door open. I kept waiting for the big romantic reveal, but nothing.

And then there’s Helen, the chief archivist at Miskatonic U, who suddenly finds herself doing a lot more fieldwork than she’d like. I thought something was going to develop between Helen and Sean’s widowed father, but nada.

In all of Lovecraft’s stories there are almost no (mortal) female characters, and no romance whatsoever (much like in Lovecraft’s own failed marriage). I was kind of hoping to see a different direction here.

Talky Talk:  I Was Told There’d Be Suicidal Insanity…

A true Lovecraftian story ends with the heroes either dead, insane, suicidal, or horribly transformed. Even when Sean was whisked off to another dimension with three black suns and gibbering shoggoths, I still didn’t feel the hopeless bleakness of it all.

Also, the thing about mythos entities is they don’t like to be studied. Those who delve too deep may find themselves the objects of unwanted attention and driven mad or encased in an alien brain box.

In Summoned, the Necronomicon is available on CD. Miskatonic University, that den of secrets man was not meant to know, is now just a college campus. Where are the screams from the medical school? The gunshots echoing from the library at night? There’s not a single professor hanging from the rafters by his neck, surrounded by his burned notes.

I didn’t care for this Lovecraft-lite.

Bonus Factors: Tome Raider

Bruce Campbell as Ash in 'Evil Dead 2'

One of the great things about Lovecraft’s works were the number of fictional arcane books he included in nearly every story. Granted, they almost always led to the death of whoever read them, but still. Sean’s father actually gets to look at one of the five known copies of the Necronomicon and keeps both his life and his sanity. So he’s doing better than its author, who was devoured alive by invisible demons in front of a crowd of screaming onlookers.

Bromance Status: Necronomicon in English. Now in paperback.

My eyeballs aren’t even bleeding.

FTC Full Disclosure: ph’nglui library book mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl no money fhtagn.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.