If you’re going to make a show called Lovecraft Country, there are a few requirements to come correct. There need to be monsters, for one thing, and there needs to be a mythological area in America that’s not on any map. But most importantly, any show that’s name-checking one of the original architects of science-fiction horror needs to have some literary bonafides. HBO’s new series brings the monsters and the mysterious American spaces in spades. But how about the literature? Bibliophiles can rest assured that the books Atticus reads in Lovecraft Country are very real, and they’re very on point.
Warning: Spoilers for Lovecraft Country follow. When fans first meet Atticus, he’s dreaming of his time in the Korean war. But it’s not long before that dream morphs from Korea to something more extraterrestrial, with giant monsters floating in the sky and a beautiful red woman. When he wakes up, he’s on a bus headed north, a book in hand.
That book, he later tells the nice elderly lady he’s been riding with, is called A Princess of Mars, about an ex-Confederate named John Carter, who accidentally gets transported to the Red Planet. She tut-tuts over the ex-Confederate plot point but can see the fantasy of another world matters to Atticus.
Viewers might actually recognize this book; Disney attempted to make a big-budget adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1912 novel A Princess of Mars a few years back, under the title of John Carter.
A Princess of Mars is only one of the proto sci-fi fantasy novels Atticus picks up during the premiere episode. Since the show is Lovecraft Country, it’s not long before a H. P. Lovecraft book makes its way on screen. The Outsider and Others is a 1939 short story collection from the titular writer and was comprised of 37 short stories. It’s also a deep cut from the Lovecraft archives, as the sheer size of the omnibus collection made it a hard sell. The book went out of print in the 1940s; it would have been a used or remaindered title in George’s store by the mid-1950s. Today, it’s a rare collector’s item.
The third and final book Atticus is seen carrying around in the first episode (though it’s never directly discussed) is The Count of Monte Cristo. Written by Alexandre Dumas, the original title in French is Le Comte de Monte-Cristo. Unlike the other two, this is not a work of science fiction, but rather a period-set adventure story stretching from 1815 to 1839. (The book itself was published in the 1840s.) It’s still what most would consider a genre novel, but historical fiction rather than extraterrestrial fantasy. It is also, notably, a revenge fantasy. The titular character, Edmond Dantès, uses his position to take down those who wronged him.
Both A Princess of Mars and The Outsider and Others eventually make their way into Atticus’s real-life experiences on his road trip. Will Dumas’ book follow? And what other books will come up in the next episode? Check out Lovecraft Country on HBO on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET to find out.