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Title: The Yellow Sign
Series: The King in Yellow Anthology #8
Editor: James Hodge
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Cosmic Horror
From the Publisher & Bookstooge.blog
FBI Agent Erica Blaine has suffered more than most. After narrowly escaping being at the center of a cult sacrifice she’d been tasked with infiltrating, Erica has spent the last few months hitting the bottle, trying to avoid dealing with the trauma of what she experienced and those she couldn’t save. Her ruined hands, always gloved, are an unavoidable reminder of her pain and anguish.
As is the voice that won’t allow her a moment of peace.
But when her old Army buddy goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Erica is pulled back into the Lovecraftian world of cult infiltration. The Yellow College welcomes her with open arms, but as her sanity crumbles beneath the weight of hallucinations, old traumas, and lost memories, how can she expect to save her friend when she can barely tell what’s real and what isn’t?
Have you seen the shores of Carcosa?
The Yellow College believes that Erica is the chosen vessel for the King in Yellow to manifest himself in. This will usher in a new age as the King reigns openly. What they don’t know is that the King has his own plans, for them, for Erica and for the world.
In the end, the college sacrifices itself in a feeding frenzy of madness and despair and Erica becomes a synthesis of herself and the King in Yellow, a new being called Nihilo. Who will bring death, destruction and madness everywhere she walks.
This starts out slow. But being familiar with how the mythology of the King in Yellow always works itself out, I was expecting that. I could see how that would be off putting to those who are either familiar with King in Yellow mythology or have not read much beyond the original 4 stories by Chambers. I would NOT recommend this as a starting place for people to read more of the King in Yellow.
This was published in ‘22 and I think I’ve made the right choice at placing it as #8 in this “series” about the King in Yellow. It is also a full novel. Most of what has been written before has been short stories. Those are easier to pull off and can rely on The Idea. A novel takes a lot more work and has other limitations that a short story doesn’t. Like characterization and plot.
I felt like Hodge did an admirable job of writing up a full length novel around the concept of the King in Yellow. With an FBI agent as the main character investigating cult like behavior, I wasn’t sure if he was going to try for the “happy ending” or the real deal King in Yellow type ending. Thankfully, he chose to go with a real King in Yellow ending and that pushed this from a 3.5star rating up to it’s 4.5star rating. I was very pleased with just how gruesomely this ended, with the promise of continuing madness (not that there is more story to tell, but that the character of Nihilo will continue on the Earth).
There are two things that kept this from getting a 5star rating from me. First and foremost, was the just plain gratuitous use of the word “fuck”. I felt like it was thrown around like a teenage girl uses “like yeah, duh”. It didn’t really convey anything except Erica’s dissatisfaction with a situation and that was already shown in other ways, so it just felt gratuitous. If you took them out, nothing would have changed. The second, which is more of a niggle than anything, was that Hodge’s interpretation of the King is more Cthulhu’ic than pure King in Yellow. When Erica meets the King, he is described in terms that are more fitting to an eldritch tentacled horror than the King of Madness as Chamber’s described him. I like my King in Yellow to be completely separate from the Cthulhu mythos, even while I realize that particular boat has sailed. Like I said, a mere niggle.
I believe this was Hodge’s debut work and as such I am planning to keep an eye out for anything else he writes. I couldn’t find a website for him, but I also didn’t look that hard. I’m not a fan of authors as people, just authors as authors.