By Seamus Cooper (Night Shade Books; 2009)

In the category of funny Cthulhu novels THE MALL OF CTHULHU by Seamus Cooper doesn’t rank too high. I found it quite reminiscent of William Browning Spencer’s RESUME WITH MONSTERS, about a working stiff embroiled in Cthulhoid nastiness. It’s probably the best such book, and the comparison does MALL OF CTHULHU no favors.

It also concerns a working stiff, a dorky guy named Ted stuck making lattes in a corporate coffee chain in Boston. Ted has an impressive pedigree, having single-handedly killed a gaggle of vampires back in his college days; in doing so he made lifelong friend of Laura, a lesbian sorority girl turned FBI agent.

Ted’s monster-killing skills are called back into play when a nut shoots up his workplace. The nut (dubbed Half-caf by Ted) loses a CD during the massacre, and Ted, being the only survivor, picks it up. The info contained on the CD leads Ted and Laura to a Cthulhu worshipping cult looking to resurrect the “Old Ones” in a shopping mall located in Providence (where Cthulhu’s creator H.P. Lovecraft resided).

The whole thing is lightweight to the point of transparency, and not a little dumb. Comedy and horror aren’t an especially easy combination to pull off in novels (see the above-mentioned William Browning Spencer book for a successful attempt), although THE MALL OF CTHULHU does have its moments.

With a novel as gag packed as this one there’s bound to be at least some inspired bits here and there. I couldn’t help but get a kick out of a line uttered by Ted in response to Laura’s claim that she dated a Lovecraft buff in the ninth grade: “I can’t believe a kid who was into Lovecraft actually had a girlfriend in the ninth grade.” I also enjoyed a climactic inter-dimensional trip to the dread city R’lyeth, where we meet Cthulhu himself, a giant tentacled beastie that Ted attempts without success to wake up!

Of course you’ll need more than a passing familiarity with H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos to fully understand why it is that Cthulhu is so sleepy, and the reason he’s stuck in R’lyeth. But then again, even for those who know their way around Lovecraft’s mythology this is a so-so book at best.