I, literally, just finished reading "Mask of the Other" by Greg Stolze. I wanted to write this review while the ending was still ringing through my head.
Connecting three pieces of mythos, two I'm familiar with via the classic HPL literature (Shoggoth's and Deep Ones), the third being either something Greg invented or pulled from a source I'm not familiar with. While no knowledge of HPL is necessary, it certainly tickles a certain fancy to recognize the form and danger of what the protagonists are really dealing with. But, this isn't your grand fathers mythos! The story is told in very immediate scenes, with brutal detail that adds to the horror of the event while not spoiling the mystery or the creeping sense that the human protagonists are way over their head and all of the weaponry, gear, and planning will serve them little better than any of the other 'victims.'
This isn't just about the mythos, though. The protagonists Greg created feel real. They are flawed, and extraordinary and have complex interrelationships. They feel real because they are so reminiscent of people we know or have met before. They feel real because they are securely anchored in a setting caste with the same history as our own, with the same geopolitical conflicts and stresses and dark alleys, as our own. The difference, is that their reality has been touched by a malignant darkness from out of time and space.
What I'm trying to describe is that this isn't a novel of the 1920's and a gentleman adventurer stumbling onto a horror out of the past and then fainting. This is a story about modern soldiers in a very real, very gritty battlefield that come across something that doesn't make sense and in their continuing efforts to make sense of it, and to deal with the aftermath of their encounter with it, have their lives altered along a trajectory as unpredictable as it is ultimately tragic. The battle scenes felt honest and chaotic. The political, bureaucratic, and corporate machinations felt completely plausible. All of this verisimilitude came together to form the perfect milieu for a tale of other worldly wonder and menace.
Finally, like the plot of "Clash of the Titans," this story was about using one maddening piece of the mythos to fight the others. To try and tame the chaos and terror that's been uncovered, by using a terrible, alien, weapon. And like all power and knowledge within the mythos, the weapon carries a terrible price along with it's gifts.
As much as I loved this book, it did tend to be a bit slow to start, with a lot of back-and-forth across different years and locations. But, very rapidly it becomes clear why this was necessary and how this lays the foundation for a story that unfolds over decades to come to a sudden confluence in the second half of the book. It's worth the effort to stick with it, even if the initial chapters seem unconnected to one another. The pattern emerges soon enough, and then you see the strands Greg is pulling together to form the backbone for the story proper.
In summary, I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves military action, international intrigue, and cosmic horror. The price (currently $5) is negligible and the product wonderful; it's well worth your time to read!
[4 of 5 Stars!]