H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos have a strong following among Japanese writers. That fact is demonstrated by Kurodahan Press’ four-volume LAIRS OF THE HIDDEN GODS anthology, showcasing Mythos-inspired fiction from Japan. This absorbing and provocative novel, also from Kurodahan Press and also translated (ably) from the Japanese, continues the tradition.
The writer was Asamatsu Ken, who edited the aforementioned LAIRS OF THE HIDDEN GODS and has an evident affinity for all things Cthulhu-related. He also has a wide-ranging and fecund imagination that appears to have absorbed quite a few elements from the films of John Carpenter and David Cronenberg.
As the introduction by Darrell Schweitzer makes clear, QUEEN OF K’N YAN’S starting point was H.P. Lovecraft’s little-known 1930 novella “The Mound,” based on a concept originated by another writer. It concerns a race of pre-human Cthulhu worshipping extraterrestrial beings whose long-sealed underground lair, known as K’n-Yan, is discovered under a mound in Oklahoma.
Asamatsu Ken’s elaboration on that tale begins with molecular biologist Morishita Anri called to the forbidding Leviathan Tower, the headquarters of a Japanese engineering firm. There Anri is put to work examining the recently interred, perfectly preserved mummy of a young woman. Yet Anri also experiences horrific hallucinations involving Chinese prisoners being forced to take part in the horrific biological experiments of Japan’s notorious WWII-era Unit 731.
This is a novel that only gets better, and wilder, as it advances, with the mummy woman identified as an emanation from K’n-Yan and Anri’s superior looking to utilize the mummy’s apparent supernatural abilities to create a biological super-weapon. The mummy, however, is returning to life, which leads to a gloriously unhinged final third in which gore, mutations and errant body parts run riot.
Asamatsu Ken’s foremost achievement here is that he manages to create a strong and cohesive narrative out of such seemingly disparate elements--hallucinations, historical reverie and pulpy excess--and does so in a manner that’s crisp, thought-provoking and, most of all, fun.