Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review: I am Providence by Nick Mamatas

I was not familiar with a ton of H.P. Lovecraft's work and actually bought a collection to read before I started Nick Mamatas's murder mystery that pays tribute to the prolific horror writer. Looking back, I would encourage readers to read Mamatas's book first unless they've already had a chance to experience Lovecraft. The other experience that might influence one's reading would be attendance at a literary convention as the idiosyncrasies of the attendees and the rituals play an important role. The enter the strange world of Lovecraft fandom through Colleen, an up and coming writer hoping to make some connections at the Summer Tentacular. Narrating other chapters from his decomposing corpse is the novelist Panossian who has a tendency to rub other Lovecraft fans the wrong way. 

The murder of Panossian is especially gruesome as someone cuts off the skin on his face, possibly to use it as the cover of a book. Despite this gruesomeness, Mamatas writes with a lot of humor and many of the character interactions are incredibly hilarious as Colleen works to solve the murder of the man she shared a room with. Being the roommate of the dead Panossian has made her a top suspect and various police officers interrogate her, even bringing her to the station to see Panossian's mangled face and get a reaction. Forbidden to leave the convention hotel, Colleen runs down a list of suspects, each more eccentric than the next.

She breaks the rules and follows a group of super fans as they search for the famous author's cat, buried in a mysterious location that they have deduced from reading his personal letters. The police catch the fans there and bring them in for questioning again finding this odd culture strange but knowing it is part of the history of where they live as these conventions have been a recurring thing for years. Colleen suspects that the murderer might be local especially as she recalls the skin bound book Panossian mentioned trying to sell. Another convention attendee known as Asparagus Head to Colleen winds up dead in the woods making Colleen a suspect once again. 

More unfamiliar officers interrogate Colleen but can find nothing conclusive so allow her to return to the hotel where everyone has grown antsy being trapped inside with a suspected killer. There is a strange gathering where everyone drinks cough syrup and does an ode to their favorite Lovecraft story. The convention is coming to a close with the final ceremony and though Colleen has had her pass restricted she still intends to attend. There are final confrontations and a revelation all while Panossian decomposes and has his last thoughts trying to reach out to the other dead body in the morgue.

I am Providence is my first experience with Mamatas's longer fiction. I have really enjoyed his writing advice, novellas, and shorter pieces for their wild imagination and humor. As evident in this book, Mamatas is skilled at pointing at the absurd in the strange happenings of the supernatural that is funny and insightful. This take on fandom and the legendary author offers plenty to entertain and should be a must read for anyone planning to attend a Lovecraft convention anytime soon.  

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