Prey is really not so much a direct sequel to H.P. Lovecraft‘s novella “The Dreams in the Witch-House” as it is another story involving two key characters, the witch Kezia Mason and her familiar, the abhorrent rat/human hybrid Brown Jenkin. Author Graham Masterton‘s writing style is nothing like the old master’s. Lovecraft was unparalleled at crafting an atmosphere of dread by using unsettling language. Masterton’s prose is far more mundane, and he revels in details of gore and sex that would have left Lovecraft aghast. And, to top it all off, Masterton’s overall tone is starkly at odds with Lovecraft in general, and “Witch-House” in particular.
My affection for the original tale is what compelled me to track down this new novel. Brown Jenkin’s elliptical appearances in Lovecraft’s piece left an indelible mark on my psyche, and the star-headed, barrel-shaped Old Ones are also a favorite with me. In Lovecraft’s short story, Miskatonic student Walter Gilman rents a cursed room in Arkham’s famed Witch House. As a math scholar, he is fascinated by the strangely shaped room, which seems to defy the laws of physics. While sleeping there, Gilman is troubled by lurid dreams of traveling through space and having encounters with Lovecraft’s trademark strange creatures, described as sentient “iridescent, prolately spheroidal bubbles” and visiting a blasphemous city of Elder Things. I believe the story (though not popular among Lovecraft aficionados) is eminently worth reading, so I won’t spoil it here, but it does rely on ideas of using mathematics to unlock the secrets of the universe.