POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
Cthulhu Armageddon is a story set after the end of the world. The Great Old Ones and various other Eldritch horrors have overrun the Earth and there are but pockets of human civilisation. Our story begins with a Remnant soldier named John Henry Booth and his Gamma Squadron undertaking a mission that initially began as a routine scouting operation but after making contact with local tribes, the Squad agrees to track down those involved in a series of kidnappings. The main reason for taking on extra work was that those kidnapped were children.
PLOT – 2/5
The story throws us straight into the deep end with Gamma Squad, and we quickly learn about their dynamic, personal relationships with each other and how they all see the world. This leads to some small gripes on my part, like any of the members questioning the existence of a Black Cathedral or otherwise. This Squad has experience dealing with various Wasteland oddities, this Cathedral shouldn’t be so easily brushed off.
What I expected was that the group would be forced to split, fall back or get lost in the myriad of rooms present inside the building. What ends up happening is the most video game action scene possible. Don’t get me wrong we see how effective Gamma are together but it’s not long before they are tossed aside, killed and only come up sparingly after. The exception is Jessica who survives alongside Booth.
The plot itself takes us from set piece to set piece and more or less meanders its way to the end of the story. There are some interesting points involving Elder Things and Ancient gods, including a trip into a plane called Dreamland but for the most part, the story goes from one big boss fight to the next. And while there are stakes, Booth is such a badass that he never really feels in danger. Though he is obsessed with getting to Ward, a man who wants to bring about an infernal scheme involving the kidnapped kids.
There are also minor antagonists Katryn and Peter Goodhill. The latter is an interesting moral opposite of Booth but the latter lacks anything that makes him stand out. I’d have preferred Stephens turn heel than have Goodhill be present. I’d have preferred a story that had more Gamma Squadron since they also had fairly unique voices and perspectives.
The Lovecraft Mythos is very much an ever-present threat, from the Nightgaunt attack all the way to meeting Nyarlathotep and dealing with whatever Ward has become. We even get a small nod to Randolph Carter himself too. The plot is very much close to grimdark in its display of all the horrors man is capable of. And there are plenty of reminders that Humanity lives on borrowed time.
As a whole, the premise is interesting but fairly generic. If you want an action-packed story where one man solos many different monsters, you may like this. The plot itself does rely on you having a passing understanding of Lovecraft’s Mythos and for the most part, it provides some interesting scenes that showcase how mind-bending these creatures are.
CHARACTER – 1/5
Probably the weakest part of the book and made it more of a slog than I would have liked. The dialogue is mostly fine if a little edgy at times. It does have that snarky humour to it also, which may not be for everyone. My biggest issue is that Gamma is wasted. Stephens may go out a hero but the first few pages of the novel will likely make the average reader roll their eyes. Why you may ask? Because he’s blonde-haired and blue-eyed while also being a nasty person and quite lecherous. He’s also racist too, but that is told to us by Booth. Stephens also objects to rescuing the kids suggesting that even if saved their fates might not be much better with tribals.
His worldview is a harsh one but not one without due cause and even Booth hints there’s more to him than meets the eye. As I said above, Gamma are also fairly unique with their personalities but they are killed off in such a way that it is only done to service the plot. The reader probably won’t care. The Squad banter is nice and like I say I wish we had more of it.
As for the other characters, Booth’s wife gifts him what he needs to survive and the torturer Mercury is kind of just along for the ride. To the point that Goodhill kidnaps her while Booth and a ghoul named Richards are dreamwalking. I have two issues with this: Goodhill could have easily killed Booth and the ghoul while they were under, and why did no one stop him from taking Mercury. It’s a small issue for sure but Goodhill really just seemed an unnecessary character in the grand scheme.
WORLD BUILDING 4/5
The Lovecraft Mythos is ever-present and there’s even a helpful glossary at the end of the book for those unfamiliar or new to the lore. For the most part, most of these monsters are there to be shot at or destroyed by Booth though they do make him work for it.
We also have interactions with Nyarlathotep and Elder Things that put Booth in a place that he can’t always shoot his way out of. I’d argue the Dreamland part is a better part of the story as it shows Booth having to be more creative in destroying his enemies. He even gives Ward a bloody nose.
OTHER + FINAL THOUGHTS
My final thoughts are that the story is passable. If you can overlook the writer’s sometimes patronising dialogue then you should be fine. I did note some formatting issues but again that didn’t stop me from finishing the story although plenty of times I nearly did DNF this book due to having my immersion broken at points. As this book is one of Phipps’ earlier novels. I imagine he has improved since this one.
As always the book can be found here.