I've been looking forward to reading another collection by this author for a while now after being extremely impressed with the first two reprints of the Arkham House collections I read (Out of Space and Time and Lost Worlds). Unfortuantely, Bison haven't yet brought this collection back into print but I finally managed to aquire an old panther reprint from the 70's.
Once again, it is a pleasure to immerse myself in his dense, rich and iridescent prose. No one paints alien landscapes as vividly as Smith. He has a masterful command over the English language and throws words together in ways you never thought possible. He delights in stretching the reader's imagination to the utmost limits and and challenges himself to help the reader visualise the indescribable. This is Smith's forte and in this regard he knows no equal (that I know of).
His weaknesses are perhaps his character and plot development. They are mere vehicles for exploring his luscious landscapes and experiencing his fearfully imagined grotesqueries. For some, this may impair their enjoyment of his work. All I can say is you can't have everything.
Having said that, this collection is not as strong as the previous two I mentioned. Whilst still having some very good stories in here, rarely does he rich the dizzy hights of excellence achieved in previous collections. Some of the stories feel a little rushed, not quite as carefully thought out as they might have been. I would not recommend this as the place to start with this author.
As in the previous collections, there are a wide variety of stories coming from the various cycles he is famous for (Hyperborea, Averoigne and Zothique). There are dark fantasties, tales of science fiction and outright horror. My favourites include: "The Eternal World", "A Star-Change", "The Disinterment of Venus", "The Garden of Adompha" and "The Black Abbot of Puthuum".