“The Colour Out of Space”

The Lovecraft series continues with the first Lovecraft story I ever read.

Raw Feed (2005, 2013): “The Colour Out of Space“, H. P. Lovecraft, 1927.Dunwich Horror and Others

Before reading this story again — which is probably the fourth or fifth time — I would have name it as one of my top three Lovecraft stories. After reading it again this time, I regard it as Lovecraft’s best work.

The horror and creepiness stand up after several re-readings. The pacing is good; the story never sags.

There is a great line:

 It was nothing of this earth, but a piece of the great outside; and as such dowered with outside properties and obedient to outside laws.

Not only is the story a great work of horror but also a great work of sf.

I suspect Lovecraft, an enthusiastic follower of science as shown by the learned interlude where the Miskatonic University chemists analyze the “meteorite”, was smart enough to know some of the implications of something so radically different, at the quantum level, from our universe that it doesn’t even produce colors known to us.

As with “In the Vault” from two years earlier, Lovecraft chooses, for whatever reason, to set the main bulk of his story in the 1880s, the decade before his birth.

However, he also shows some characteristic plotting.

The story is told in the first person in contemporary times by a man who has discovered an historical horror. There’s even a passage of dialect from old Ammi (as with Zadok in Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” — though not as long).

On re-reading the story in 2013, I still found it an impressive piece of work.

I was struck by a few things.

Since I’ve read Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows” since last reading this story, I can see the debt in the imagery of the moving trees and open skies.

There is an element of Job in Nahum Gardener wondering what he did to deserve such divine punishment.

The story, because of its frame and foreshadowing constantly moves and doesn’t, apart from the opening paragraph, spend much time building atmosphere without mentioning the menace of weird events.

If the story has any faults, it may be a trifle wordy. For instance, we are told at least two times the “blasted heath” is advancing every year.  Perhaps one would have been enough but, given the unstudied account of the narrator, it is in character.


More reviews of Lovecraft are indexed on the Lovecraft page.

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

19 thoughts on ““The Colour Out of Space”

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