Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath Review (INJ Culbard, HP Lovecraft)

Randolph Carter dreams of a sunset city and decides to go looking for it(?!). His nutty friend tells him to pray to the dream gods or something and they’ll let him find it again (!?). Bonkers bullshit ensues!

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is plotted using dream logic, ie. anything goes! Carter rocks up in a forest of giant mushrooms with talking rodents. He sets sail on flying ships full of humanoid monsters, meets the Cats of Ulthar (who, of course, also talk) all so he can travel to a mountain with a face on the side.

Like a dream, you can’t really make sense of the story, you can only let it wash over you. And that’s why it leaves so slight an impression. It’s a quest story where the end goal is never very clear and the resolution is puzzling. Everything that happens along the way is similarly confusing and random so it’s hard to care about any of it.

This is HP Lovecraft at his most free-flowing and least horrific, and yet completely uninteresting too. It’s wholly unengaging as nothing in the story feels like it matters. Sure, INJ Culbard’s art is great, especially as he’s given more range with this story to cut loose and draw big, exotic, fantastical landscapes and creatures, but Lovecraft’s rambling, barely coherent story is totally forgettable.

Lovecraft wasn’t just a shaky writer but quite often he was a weak storyteller too as shown by Dream-Quest. His strengths lay in the horrific visions he conjured up that leapt off the page. A few panels are like that here but not nearly enough to call this anywhere near compelling or worth seeking out.

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is the weakest in the Culbard/Lovecraft adaptations. Maybe this has connections to Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones mythos but I’m not that big a fan to say. Kadath, what/whoever it is, remains unknown!

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath


  1. Lovecraft himself thought this was one of his weakest stories. The only reason it was published was because he self published it with some encouragement from friends. Lovecrafts strengths were always in his short story writing, and with the objective help of an editor. This story's only points of interest are in the details of the visual ideas as the plot is almost non-existent.

    1. I didn't know he self-published this story - thanks for the info, Charlotte!