Review: The Thing from HR by Roy M. Griffis
The Thing from HR is a Lovecraftian comedy featuring a Shaggoth with a surfer dude sidekick, sexy college girls, and eldritch cultists out to destroy the world. This first book in the Cthulhu, Amalgamated series is a humorous take on the cosmic horror genre.
Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed The Thing from HR. I encourage you to check it out!
Disclaimer: We received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of review. This in no way influences our opinions. (You can request a review here.)
This review contains minor spoilers.
The Thing from HR Publisher Description:
What’s a nice Shoggoth like him doing in a dump like this?
Narg was content working as a Damnation Services-10 in HR. Sure, he was related to one of the Elder Gods, but a little nepotism never hurt any Thing. His life was just wailing and gibbering, right up until his Uncle needed a small favor from his nephew.
All Narg had to do was go down among the humans…and pretend to be one of them.
Follow Roy M. Griffis:
Most of the Lovecraftian comedies I’ve read in the past rely heavily on a sort of psychedelic haze to produce outrageous behaviors and situations. The Thing from HR, on the other hand, tells a compelling story. The main character behaves reasonably with the information he has. The information is limited and faulty, bringing about those outrageous and humorous results, but the tale is coherent.
Griffis uses plenty of other types of comedy, too. Witty observational humor is particularly prevalent, ranging from relatable “corporate cog” work drama to the reality of the human body. I felt a particular affinity for the remark that toes “seemed designed to locate and unsuccessfully attack random obstacles in the dark.” Clearly there is also some slapstick humor, occasionally coupled with body horror for surreal humor.
Fun Character Mash-up
I enjoyed NargLAh (Narg), the Shaggoth. His character is smart, but a bit excitable. Initially, his nature as a “Servant of The Outer Darkness” made me unsure as to what role he would play in the story—antihero? But I was won over by his business manner and enthusiasm for learning about what we would consider mundane experiences.
I was also unsure about his human guide Murph, as the surfer dude seemed to think more with his dick than his head. A quick note here that the sexual encounters were largely limited to ogling. It was not long, however, before Murph showed a glimpse of the heroic tendencies to be developed throughout the story.
These two characters, mashed into one (possibly stolen) human body meant there was always something to drive tension and humor, even if that was only an internal conversation.
What Is the Mission?
Due to a bungle by the Chas Department (Department of Confusion), neither Narg nor Murph have the details of their mission. There is some group of humans causing trouble that ostensibly Narg must foil, but it is unclear what “non-beings” might consider troublesome.
This element of mystery contributes to the humor, particularly Narg’s resentment of Department C, as well as the tension. The pacing moves steadily through the introductions of ordinarily dry academic professors and students partly because the reader is wondering who can be trusted and what is going on that needs to be prevented.
Additionally, this makes everyone a suspect and increases the reader association with the two main characters who at first appear a bit morally ambiguous, as I’ve mentioned.
The question of the mission is echoed in the story’s conclusion, where it is revealed the Narg’s understanding of the purpose of the Dark Gods and the Elder Things is also incomplete. It made for a nice arc and a more uplifting conclusion.
Ordinarily “Lovecraftian horror” is associated with themes of human insignificance. The Thing from HR flips that theme on its head.
This is presented at first by Narg’s ignorance, not of human expressions or behaviors, but of the afterlife. While speaking to a dead man, he comments, “I had the exciting intuition Ernie was speaking to me from a truly undiscovered country, one unknown to me and my ilk.” This is soon followed with another new experience—listening to John and Nancy as they fumble through admitting their feelings for one another. He says, “It was something foreign to me, some new energy that swept over them.” Then later Narg considers this again, concluding that humans were “capable of a nobility I had but the barest ability to envisage.”
These encounters hint that there is more to the world than this denizen of the “Realms Where Hope Liveth Not” knows, even considering his familiarity with all of the “Things Man Is Not Meant to Know” and that what he does not know is good and wonderful.
During the story’s climax, Narg is particularly impressed by John and Nancy. He recalls, “Even as they were out of time, they had rallied. They had fought against the dying of the light and the ending of their world.” Even when dealing with great, forbidden, and seemingly nihilistic knowledge, it is reassuring to have characters who are not cowed by it and values that transcend the machinations of cultists and eldritch beings.
One value Griffis emphasizes in particular is the importance of family. Ernie mentions his regret that he spent most of his life in research and never had a wife and kids. The love of John and Nancy that leaves such a weighty impression on Narg is specifically discussed in terms of spending a future together. Nancy’s pregnancy concludes the falling action, emphasizing both the significance of humans, the importance of family, and the preciousness of time in the face of the cosmic.
The last thematic thing I want to note is a little aside that is all the acknowledgement of Christianity that the story has (which is more than most cosmic fiction includes). At a particularly horrific moment in the climax, Narg observes the reactions of the humans in the room: “John blasphemed (in a curious way that seemed to actually be calling down sacred wrath and not speaking disrespectfully of that deity).” This gave me a chuckle and, again, emphasized that there were wonderful things that Narg did not know or understand.
Check Out The Thing from HR!
The Thing from HR is an engaging cosmic horror comedy with heroic and hopeful themes. I am eager to try more of the Cthulhu, Amalgamated series!
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