I just finished listening to The Thing From HR, written Roy M Griffis and narrated by Magnus Carlssen.
The author does a number of very difficult things in this book and makes them look easy. What’s more, many of them–Lovecraft inspired horror/comedy, an inhuman narrator, historical fiction, metaphysical fiction–are things that often have been done very badly.
I was hesitant, in fact, to pick up this book because of what my publisher refers to as “Cthulolz”. There is a lot of uninspired pastiche that attempts to ride on Lovecraft’s coattails by namedropping elder gods into an otherwise flaccid story.
What sets The Thing From HR apart is the voice of the main character. Narg is a likeable shoggoth. From his own perspective he is very ordinary, working his job, flirting with his secretary, Bug, spending his days in obscurity. He has a delightful lack of comprehension regarding the human world, despite being in the office of Human Restraint which handles the paperwork for humans who meddle in Things Man Was Not Meant To Know Or Even Guess At.
The story begins with Narg being sent on assignment to the human world. There things start to go south as soon as he arrives. He is shoehorned into a human body and given the soul of a dead human as a native guide. Unfortunately, neither Narg nor the former human, Murph, have any idea what the assignment is or how to accomplish it.
What follows is a comedy of errors. Narg and Murph blunder from one awkward situation to another, encountering cultists, murderers, Nazi spies, and a femme fatale who is both more and less than she seems.
Throughout the novel Griffis maintains an affection for his characters and for the work of Lovecraft than inspired them. We are invited to laugh with the absurdities of the conceit, not laugh at it. For all of its horrors this is a novel with a gentle and compassionate heart. We want Narg to succeed at his enigmatic mission and along the way we meet other quirky and likable characters.
The voice acting of Magnus Carlssen is perfect for the feel of the novel. He makes the characters very real and manages a number of accents (including the shoggoth language) naturally.