Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Lovecraft Country

Go To
Sometimes they stab me right in the heart.

"But stories are like people, Atticus. Loving them doesn't make them perfect. You try to cherish their virtues and overlook their flaws. The flaws are still there, though. But you don't get mad."
— Uncle George

Lovecraft Country is a 2016 novel from Matt Ruff. Set in the Jim Crow era, it stars the aptly named Atticus Turner as a 22 year old African American army veteran, whose father Montrose goes missing in Lovecraft Country. Despite the threats posed by a secret order hiding in a village of questionable temporal geography with shoggoths roaming about the woods, Ruff effectively uses the Cosmic Horror Story as a foil to show just how horrific racism can be.

In 2017 it was announced that Jordan Peele would be adapting the novel into an HBO television series.


The novel contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Caleb Braithwhite is extremely friendly and charming and much less racist (or at least differently racist) than his fellow cultists, but he continually manipulates Atticus and his family and places them in grave danger. Similarly, while he's always generous in rewarding them every time he maneuvers them into completing a mission for him, he always holds over them the threat of violence from more racist and unpleasant parties. Which doesn't even get into the fact that his ultimate goal is to become a Sorcerous Overlord over America.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Lovecraft's incorrect naming of the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred is lampshaded by Abdullah Mohammed, the head of the local Prince Hall Freemasons, and by Montrose, Atticus' father, who claims it's just "a white guy from Rhode Island trying to be funny."
  • Advertisement:
  • Ascended Fanboy: The gang at one point need to retrieve a magic book from a museum. One of the people they bring along for help is a group named Mortimer, who is a Lovecraft fan and becomes positively giddy when he witnesses supernatural phenomena.
  • Cool Uncle: Atticus gets along much better with his Uncle George than with his father Montrose.
  • Corrupt Hick: Unsurprisingly given the period and setting, Atticus and his family as well as anyone else traveling as part of the Safe Negro Travel Guide meet these. These range from police officers who stop and harass for a pretext to police officers who will kill any African-American who enters their county.
  • Daylight Horror: Before any Cosmic Horror elements appear, the reader is treated to a different type of terrifyingly uncaring world: life as an African American trying to travel through Jim Crow era south, and how the injustices of this world often happened in broad daylight.
  • Eldritch Abomination: There's at least one lurking in the woods near Bideford and Ardham. Not to mention whatever was glimpsed briefly in one of the planets on Winthrop's orrery.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Caleb is a very dangerous sorcerer, but he shows no sign of open bigotry or prejudice throughout the entire novel, not even when Atticus and his family take away his power, which is quite impressive considering the kind of environment he was raised in and the era. He even seems to take pleasure in using his powers to help Atticus and his family in outsmarting bigots. He is not above taking advantage of the bigotry of his peers, however.
  • Everyone Laughs Ending: A particularly dark example. At the end of the book, Caleb threatens the protagonists that if they don't help him they'll encounter other cultists who are less friendly and will never truly be safe in America. This causes them to crack up with laughter, since that's what life is already like for them in America on account of their race.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Early in the novel, the characters go to a restaurant that had been recommended in the Safe Negro Travel Guide for friendly and welcoming service from the white owners and otherwise good amenities. However, when they go there, they are met with silence and hostility, and as a seemingly minor difference, everything is newly whitewashed rather than the old red brick. Atticus is suspicious from the outset, and after noticing some signs of scorch marks, Atticus reminds his Uncle George of a factoid about how the White House got its name from being repainted after being torched by the British during the War of 1812. At this point, George understands Atticus' meaning and has an Oh, Crap! reaction, realizing that after the last visit, the place had been torched by a racist mob with likely fatal consequences for the former owners, and the new owners are coming for them.
  • Fictional Counterpart: The Safe Negro Travel Guide is a fictional version of the Negro Motorist Green Book, which served the same function in real-life Jim Crow America.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Although Caleb Braithewhite doesn't have any particular racial animosity, this doesn't make him a nice guy - he firmly believes that everyone is beneath him.
  • Haunted House: The new house Letitia bought at a suspiciously low price in a white neighborhood turns out to be haunted by its former owner, Hiram Winthrop, a sorcerer who appears in Letitia's dreams as a space suit containing a black void filled with tentacles.
  • Language of Magic: The Edenic language used by the cultists is the original language of humanity that existed before the Tower of Babel and consequently is comprehensible and pronounceable to anyone who looks at it for a sufficiently long amount of time. Because it's essentially the language used to call life into being during Creation, someone who knows how to use the language can use it to alter reality around them.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Letitia comes into some money at one point and uses it to purchase a home and become a landlord. This home is in a predominantly white neighborhood, and the neighbors are willing to commit serious acts of vandalism and threaten her life if it means scaring her and her tenants away. What they don't know is that the house is haunted by a malevolent ghost who becomes very violent whenever someone attempts to alter the home. They all barely survive, but their criminal intents were so blatantly obvious that the largely white police force eagerly arrest and charge them.
    • Later on, Ruby loses her job because the daughter of the owner of a hotel she works at frames her for stealing an expensive pair of earrings from a guest. To better illustrate just how vile a woman this is, the next time Ruby sees her she starts a screaming match with a woman who's also got eyes for the man she's in love with, and the woman lies about them being engaged in order to claim the moral high ground in the argument. She's also wearing the stolen earrings. Ruby has been given a potion that changes her appearance into that of a beautiful white woman, and she manages to frame the woman for stealing from the store. The woman then assaults a cop and gets violently apprehended by several officers.
  • Lovecraft Country: Obviously featured as a setting, and introduced into the story via a somewhat humorous Double Subversion. Atticus initially thinks his father was taken to the (fictional in and out of universe) Arkham, Massachusetts, but then his uncle reminds me that This Is Reality and notes that Montrose actually wrote he was in Ardham, Massachusetts (real in-universe but fictional out-of-universe), which turns out to be just as sinister and benighted.
  • The Order: The Adamite Order of the Ancient Dawn.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Given the time period and setting, practically everyone is this except for the Affably Evil Big Bad (who isn't above using racist individuals and groups to get what he wants, but personally doesn't seem to care about anyone's skin color).
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Caleb Braithwhite is full of this.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: When Letitia moves into Hiram Winthrop's house, his angry ghost almost immediately tries to throw her down an elevator shaft. She holds on long enough to convince him that she'd be a hell of a lot more trouble if he makes her a ghost, and he saves her from falling. Later, the two of them play chess, and after Letitia wins, it's implied that Hiram will allow her and her tenants to live in the house under his protection so long as his study remains off limits.
  • Threat Backfire: See Everyone Laughs Ending. As Caleb finds out, nothing he can threaten the protagonists with is any different or worse than the typical African-American experience.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Book of Names, which is mistaken by several characters for the Necronomicon but is explicitly stated not to be. It's still bound in skin, though.
  • Villainous Rescue: Early in the novel, Caleb rescues Atticus and co. from Ardham police who were going to murder them by siccing a Shoggoth on the officers.

Example of: