Review by C.J. Bunce

In After the End of the World, author Jonathan L. Howard pens the second book in a series featuring his two heroes, bookstore owner Emily Lovecraft, fictional descendant of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, and ex-cop Daniel Carter, descendant of Randolph Carter, a recurring character in H.P. Lovecraft’s novels that was said to be written into Lovecraft’s works as his alter ego.  The novel continues in a different vein from where Howard’s Carter & Lovecraft left off, taking readers into the realm of alternate histories and speculative fiction.

After the End of the World will be familiar to readers of Harry Turtledove’s dark parallel histories.  Probably no other storyteller has covered a world where Nazi Germany came out on top as frequently as Turtledove in his novels.  Carter and Lovecraft leave the more Lovecraftian monster horror realm when a cataclysmic event splits reality between the Folded World–the real world–and the Unfolded World, a scary surreal parallel world where a change in historical events threw off the course of history, leaving the duo to begin a journey to try to make things right.

The novel takes much by way of concept from Philip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle and the recent popularity of its television adaptation, and the political aura of the recent trend of life reflecting fiction echoing in entertainment like The Handmaid’s Tale.  After the End of the World reads like a variant of Dick’s novel, but in Howard’s story Germany destroyed Moscow early in the war, conquered Russia, and sued for peace with the rest of the world, resulting in its lasting success over the past 70 years as a superpower and technological leader.  So this material has been covered in parallel histories, and the value for the reader will be honing in on Emily Lovecraft and Daniel Carter as a pair.

Oddly enough the seaside monsters and creepy atmosphere you think of when you’re reading a Lovecraft story are not a great part of Howard’s story, but we do meet them by story’s end.  Emily Lovecraft is African-American and the reader is expected to be aware of the irony with the real-world scrutiny of the actual H.P. Lovecraft as racist.  The odd combination of a Lovecraft character and his descendant is just that–odd–and this may have more value and meaning for devotees of Lovecraft and the writer’s personal history outside his novels.  This is not an atmospheric journey like anything that may have been written by Lovecraft, but seems more like the author’s desire to take his characters and dabble in parallel histories.  Emily Lovecraft is entertaining in her passion to destroy the Nazis (I kept seeing Octavia Spencer playing her in a film version), but often seems too gung-ho, but Daniel Carter seems like a stock private detective (an image of Jon Hamm kept me paying attention), although he gets a nicely crafted heroic scene two-thirds of the way through the story.

Despite its subject matter, life under Howard’s version of Nazi rule is disturbingly tolerable.  Emily Lovecraft is constantly frustrated with a mirror of America operating normally under Nazi influence and power.  “Making Germany great again” comes into play, and the reflections of modern society are left for the reader to interpret.  A Nazi heroine coming to the rescue seems a bit discomfiting.  Is it too easy to flip roles without more rationale and gravitas behind the story?  When Carter and Lovecraft aren’t acting like the duo in Lethal Weapon, Howard peppers in bits and pieces of real world angst and Necronomicon influences to toy with the reader’s perceptions of fantasy, horror, and reality.  It almost comes together.

Lovecraft fans wanting more Lovecraft may be better off revisiting the actual H.P. Lovecraft stories again, and alternate history fans may be better satisfied with one of a dozen Turtledove novels, but for fans of Howard’s writing and Carter & Lovecraft, his first novel in the series, After the End of the World is available now here at Amazon.