The Cosmic Codex
The Cosmic Codex
Disturbing revelations at the bottom of the world

Disturbing revelations at the bottom of the world

A review of "The Mountains of Madness" by Adam Fyda
“A primordial remnant” by Brian S. Pauls, 2023; Digital illustration created using Midjourney
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Princess Serina, the last survivor of House Starfire, refuses to be crowned empress until she’s wiped out the rebels who killed her family. Only then will she prove to the bickering nobility, and herself, that she is worthy of the crown.

Just when victory seems near, mysterious messages lead her to believe the rebels have infiltrated the Core’s military. Her investigations reveal a new threat, one even more insidious than the assassination of the emperor sixteen years before. Will she unmask the conspiracy that threatens to destroy everything she sacrificed to protect? Or will she become its next victim?

On the Outward Edge is the first book in a series of five novellas capturing the critical moments of the fourth era, the Core Galactic Empire, in the Myriadu universe.

Club Codex is reading and discussing “The Kaiju Preservation Society” by John Scalzi in September. Please join us!

As far as I know, H. P. Lovecraft originated the trope of a fantastic discovery buried beneath polar ice. His 1936 novella At the Mountains of Madness revolves around it. John W. Campbell, Jr., Stan Lee, and the movie Alien vs. Predator have since revisited the concept.

Author and illustrator Adam Fyda has adapted Lovecraft’s science fiction horror classic. The graphic novel The Mountains of Madness launched on Kickstarter in 2020. Earlier this year, another Kickstarter campaign brought us the hardback “deluxe edition”.

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Like its source material, Fyda's work relates the fate of an Antarctic expedition. This is a follow-up to the journey described in Lovecraft’s novella. Another party of explorers follows clues left behind by their ill-fated predecessors. Soon they discover Antarctica wasn’t always the barren wasteland it is today. And something, or some things, have survived.

Fyda uses color well to represent the current expedition. He gives us interior scenes suffused with the warm orange-brown of firelight. He paints the exterior glacial conditions in forlorn blues and blue-greens. Meanwhile, events of the previous expedition appear in black-and-white.

Fyda is skilled at the visual composition of two-page spreads. He introduces previous events via various artifacts on a cluttered desktop. Two characters ascend the mountains across several consecutive panels.

The writing in The Mountains of Madness serves the story well. Fyda is wise to avoid imitating Lovecraft’s ornamental prose. He uses enough dialog and exposition to explain what’s going on, but allows his drawings to do most of the work.

Fyda’s narrative/artistic choices are not as impressive. His sequel's story is the same as that of the novella. And he reimagines the physical form of an important creature…unimaginatively.

I have no problem with a sequel to At the Mountains of Madness. The original leaves enough up-in-the-air to justify continuation. But using this device to retell Lovecraft’s story seems pedestrian. If you want a retelling, why not do a straight adaptation? And if it is a sequel, don’t include a character from the novella who ended up in no condition to return to Antartica. Or at least explain the discrepancy.

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The way Fyda changes the look of one of Lovecraft’s most iconic creatures concerns me more. In the novella, it’s a primary example of how to portray an alien species. Here, Fyda depicts it as little more than a Star Trek-like quasi-humanoid with an odd head. At least he gives it more than two legs.

Does it seem like I’m comparing Fyda’s work too much with its source, rather than judging it on its own merits? Keep in mind I backed this Kickstarter because of my admiration for Lovecraft’s story. I wanted to experience At the Mountains of Madness in a new medium. I expect this describes most backers. Fans of the novella would seem to be the target market. It would surprise me if many backers were unfamiliar with Lovecraft’s tale. I doubt most readers will come away with anything like the experience they found in the original.

Recommendation: Leave it  :(

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The Cosmic Codex
The Cosmic Codex
Living in a science fiction universe...