Two years ago I watched and loved Lovecraft Country, a television show about a black family dealing with the horrors of cultists and white people. Recently I got around to reading the book that the series was based on. I was excited because in my experience, the book is always more in-depth than the series.
Well, that doesn’t apply here.
In Lovecraft Country, written by Matt Ruff, a black family in the early 50’s is harassed by a cult of white people who need some last special human sacrifices to pull off a great magic. Like the television series, every story in the book focuses on a different family member or friend of the family as they deal with weird shit. In addition to cultists, there is the twin horror of being African-American in a very racist America. It is this racial tension that puts the heroes often at a disadvantage, but also makes the heroes inherently tougher and better survivors than their enemies.
All in all, it is a good book. If I read it by itself, I would call it great. The problem is that the television series expands the issues of racism in so many clever and amazing ways that the book feels a little shallow in comparison. The series also explores the relationships between the heroes, creating some great romantic lead moments as well as humanizing and creating a more interesting father-son dynamic. The series changes the gender of two of the characters to give women more roles and it is a very welcome change. The end result is that the book sometimes feels juvenile in comparison.
One thing the book does do better is understanding what the fuck the villains were up to. The series threw a bunch of bad guys at the heroes with loose connections. Quite frankly, since the bad guys are all white people and so many white people hate the heroes, it almost felt natural that the bad guys were coming after them. The book makes it clear at all times how the bad guys are in relation to each other and there is second story being unearthed about an occultist and his estranged son.
I still recommend you read the book. It is a great idea of putting intelligent, well-read and yet very strong African-American characters in a world filled with pulp-inspired challenges, especially when the world of pulp wanted nothing to do with said characters. It is a well crafted and tight story that is more action-adventure than horror. If there was a sequel, I would read the heck out of it.
But I would also make sure to watch the TV show.