The Old One And The Sea
Reviewed By Becca Futrell
- Paperback: 108 pages
- Publisher: Sinister Horror Company (1 Nov. 2019)
KR: I’m delighted to bring you Becca Futrell’s review of The Old One And The Sea, a story written for 8-12-year-olds but will appeal to all ages. After the review, I’m thrilled that the author, Lex H Jones has kindly submitted a guest post explaining the origins of a Lovecraftian children’s book.
Take it away Becca…
As soon as The Old One & The Sea was put on the table for review, I quickly snagged it up. I’m huge into reading Middle Grade and Young Adult horror, because as someone who grew up with horror, I want to be able to pass my love onto the younger generations. Also, there’s a ton of adults who just can’t stomach gruesome stories, or can’t sleep without the light on after reading a ghostly tale & that’s totally okay! I still want to be able to recommend horror to them that might not be as intense as a Stephen King or William Peter Blatty novel.
Plus, I’m never one to turn down something with such cute cover art. Let me tell ya, I’m so very glad that I read The Old One & The Sea, and I plan on reading it many more times.
The Old One & The Sea was as cute as I expected. It follows a very young Howard Lovecraft during his days of which he meets Oolu, or as you may know him, Cthulu. This is not the Call of Cthulu story you might be familiar with, but instead, a very cute tale of friendship & the unfortunate ugliness of humans.
For this review, I’m going to continue to call him Oolu, because to be honest, I find it to be an absolutely adorable nickname.
Oolu arrives when the stars are just right, and are summoned by coins found on a reef that randomly appears one day. Howard, being the curious child he is, manages to figure out this summoning system, and makes friends with the creature that rises from the sea. Oolu is a very misunderstood creature, as we quickly learn from a group of sailors. These sailors want to remove the creature from the pier simply due to fear of his appearance.
This type of story and plot has probably been done a hundred times in children literature. Even horror fans have seen it plenty of times in films – humans get scared of the unknown or because someone looks different, and then humans try to remove this possible danger. However, being placed in a Lovecraft universe truly added more of an umph to this tale. We know the players of the game – we know Howard, and we know Cthulu – but we never seen them in this light, and that’s what makes The Old One & the Sea special. A friendly Oolu? I’m 100% here for that.
Lex H. Jones carefully crafts his words so that it creates the perfect atmosphere for this tale. I got strong Universal Monster vibes, and I absolutely loved it.
In just a few pages, we witness a beautiful friendship develop. Howard doesn’t appear to have many friends, so when Oolu arrives, we can’t help but cheer these two on. It’s riddled with emotion, and for being a child’s book, manages to send you a punch to the gut.
The Old One & the Sea is a wonderful, heart-warming tale about friendship, and not judging someone based on appearance. This is a perfect introduction to the horror genre for children, and even a wonderful quick read for adults! The Old One & the Sea deserves to go down as a classic.
The Origins of the Old One and The Sea
By Lex H Jones
The decision to write a Lovecraftian children’s book has something of a strange origin to it.
Firstly, I’d always wanted to set a story in a run-down seaside town. Something about those places (whether completely run-down or just out-of-season at the time of your visit) has a sad magic to them. The idea that these places were once a place of such busy, noisy joy, only to now be so quiet and empty, just does something to my emotions. So in the back of my mind, I’d always held onto this perfect story location; I just needed to find the right tale for it.
I was on a Lovecraft page looking at artwork, and two very specific images sprung out at me. One was a cartoonish image of Cthulhu done in the style of the Peanuts artwork, where he could fit right alongside Charlie Brown and the gang. The other was a sepia image of Cthulhu, drawn in the style of the characters from “Where the Wild Things Are”, standing in the sea looking at the shore. Those images sparked something in my mind, which led to a discussion with a friend of mine: Could I actually do a Cthulhu story that was suitable for children?
Not something cutesy and silly, like Cthulhu befriending a unicorn or something. Stories like that have their place, but this wasn’t going to be that. I wanted to see if I could write a genuine children’s book, full of heart and emotion and depth of characters. The more I spoke to my friend, the more the ideas flowed from me, until he more or less insisted I sat down that very night and got on with writing it.
The location I’d stored in my mind, the sad old seaside town, immediately slotted into place and became this story’s version of Innsmouth. The lead character, the young boy who discovers a strange black reef off the coast of his home, would be a young Howard Lovecraft himself, only an extremely fictionalised version of him. And as for Cthulhu….well he went through some changes. He couldn’t be several thousand feet tall as that makes him utterly impossible to relate to in a children’s story. I had to downsize him, whilst keeping his origins intact. I should say here, for any Lovecraft purists, that the reasons for any difference between the Cthulhu in this book, and the Cthulhu that horror fans are familiar with, are absolutely explained within the world of the story itself. I’ve even tied the events of the story to the actual Call of Cthulhu story as far as possible, and I think Lovecraft fans will pick up on where this is relevant in the book.
After I’d written several drafts of the book, and had it professionally edited, I spoke with a friend of mine who happens to be an artist, Liam Hill. I sat down with him and explained that I wanted an image for each chapter of the book, capturing a specific scene that was key to that chapter. I explained the style I wanted; the simplistic-yet-beautiful style that I’d seen Liam do with so much of his own work. He immediately knew what I meant, and the work he came back with was exactly what I had envisioned. It was as though he’d taken what I saw in my mind and put it there on the page. That artwork is the first thing anybody sees in the book, and it captures the tone of the story perfectly. It’s sweet and warm but also somewhat quiet and subdued. This is not a loud and brash children’s tale, and the artwork reflects that.
As I write this, there have been two professional reviews of the book posted already, and both were incredible. Both reviews commented on how I handle the subject of childhood grief, and were very complimentary about this. It may be surprising to find such a subject tackled in a book about a giant monster, but I always like to have my stories grounded in some form of reality. Whatever else might be happening, it’s important to me that my stories keep that footing. The fact that this is commented on so warmly in two reviews already tells me I did something right, and it fills my heart with joy to see people responding to it like that.
I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book. The idea of giving somebody a book that they might treasure for years to come, and perhaps even introduce to their own children one day, is really special to me. It’s impossible for me to say whether I’ve achieved that here or not, as time will surely be the deciding judge of that.
All that’s left for me to say is thank you to everyone who buys the book, thank you to everyone who encouraged me to go ahead with it, and thank you to Kendall Reviews for being so supportive of it.
With love and best wishes.
Lex H Jones
The Old One And The Sea
Howard is a lonely, isolated boy who lives in the run-down seaside town of Innsmouth. Most of the town’s men left to fight the Great War and didn’t come back, and those that did, like Howard’s neighbour Mr Derleth, brought their own scars and strange stories with them. None quite so strange as what is about to happen to Howard, however.
An undersea earthquake brings a strange black reef to the surface just off the coast of Innsmouth, and with it something else. Something old, and forgotten, and every bit as lonely as the young boy who discovers it. What follows is a unique and secret friendship that will change the life of both Howard and his bizarre new friend forever.
Lex H Jones
Lex H Jones is a British author, horror fan and rock music enthusiast who lives in Sheffield, North England.
He has written articles for premier horror websites the ‘Gingernuts of Horror’ and the ‘Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog’ on various subjects covering books, films, videogames and music.
Lex’s noir crime novel “The Other Side of the Mirror” was published in 2019, with his first published novel “Nick and Abe”, a literary fantasy about God and the Devil spending a year on earth as mortal men, published in 2016. His latest release is “The Old One and The Sea”, released 1st November 2019, which is a children’s weird fiction book centred around the reimagining of H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos. Lex also has a growing number of short horror stories published in collections alongside such authors as Graham Masterton, Clive Barker and Adam Neville. He is currently working on his ‘Harkins’ book series, the first of which ‘The Final Casebook of Mortimer Grimm’ is due for release in 2020.
When not working on his own writing Lex also contributes to the proofing and editing process for other authors.
His official Facebook page is: LexHJones
Amazon author page : Lex-H-Jones
Writer, Reader & most importantly, Mother of Cats. Thanks to her horror-obsessed father, Becca found her childhood nights dedicated to watching movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. As she continued to get older, her love for the genre only got stronger. Now, her goal is to share this love with like-minded people & possibly convert others along the way. When she’s not reading or writing, Becca can be found playing video games or begging her cats to take a nap with her.