I first encountered the artwork of Jason Thompson through a poster he created for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess role-playing game. I was immediately struck by the simplicity of his central figure, the "mock man," set against the finely-honed detail work one sees in his settings, costume, and creatures. His work is truly unique, cartoonish, but compelling. So when I first saw the cover of his hardbound The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath & Other Stories, I knew it wouldn't be long before I procured a copy. I was filled with that sort of book-lust that only true book lovers know. I obsessed a bit.
And I am not disappointed.
This volume contains stories from what has come to be known as Lovecraft's "Dreamlands" cycle: "The White ship," "Celephais," "The Strange High House in the Mist," and the eponymous novella "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath," as well as a series of drawings from Thompson's sketch book. Thompson stays faithful to the original stories, but adds an easter egg or two in a touch of whimsy, such as a moment when Randolph Carter is telling Pickman's ghouls that he must take his leave of them to continue his search for Kadath: the ghoul to his left says "Oh, Carter, please don't go!" and the one to his right says "We'll eat you up, we love you so!"
If you don't get that reference, it's time for you to hit the children's books again.
Despite this and a couple of other dalliances, Thompson stays true to Lovecraft's plots, characters and, for the most part, rich descriptions. Unlike many illustrated versions of Lovecraft's work, Thompson's artwork actually does reflect the very words that Lovecraft used. The work is bound together aurally and visually; a rare thing, indeed. The lush illustrations are sometimes only evocative of the wonders and horrors Lovecraft created, allowing the reader's imagination to fill in details that are out of sight just beyond the frame of the picture itself. This leads to a sense of anticipation and sometimes dread that pulls the reader in. It is as much what is not seen, but hinted at, that provides enticement to the intellect. Or, as it is said, "It's not the kill, it's the thrill of the chase".
A thrilling chase, indeed. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Buy a copy here and support Thompson so he can continue to produce such wonderful art and books. He's just whetted my appetite with this volume. I want more, and more, and more.