Review of HUNGRY MOON by Ramsey Campbell

If you were to peruse my bookshelf you’d find the name Ramsey Campbell outnumbers any other by wide margin. His short story collection ALONE WITH THE HORRORS is an absolute masterpiece. I consider him a can’t miss writer. Somehow his 1986 novel THE HUNGRY MOON remained unread on shelf until this past month. I’ve seen it appear on a few favorites lists so I felt it was high time I dug into it.

The story revolves around the small town of Moonwell, where for generations the townspeople have have decorated a cave to appease an ancient druidic custom. When evangelist Godwin Mann comes to town, he converts the people and brings a stop to the pagan ceremony. The charismatic leader rallies all but a few into fanatics who hang on his every word.

Turns out, there was a good reason for the druidic ceremony of the cave. It kept an ancient, powerful entity from emerging. Soon the Moonwell is plunged into darkness, cut off from the rest of a world which seems to forget its existence.

The first half of the novel focuses on several characters, their relationships and interactions. Godwin Mann and his followers persecute the handful of unbelievers mercilessly. This would be my one complaint with the novel. The Christians are mostly presented as a pack of judgmental bullies. I felt it was laid on a little thick. Only the towns original priest is shown in a positive light and he isn’t around for long.

The second half takes place in a Moonwell isolated by impenetrable darkness, filled with hideous creatures. Godwin retreats to his room where he appears at an upper window, irradiating a strange glow, to instruct his ravenous clan. Some of the people are turned into sub-human creatures. The dark entity from the cave rapidly transforms Moonwell into a Hell on Earth.

Was this my favorite Ramsey Campbell book? No, that would be the previously mentioned ALONE WITH THE HORRORS. Was it my favorite Campbell novel? No. I’d rank INCARNATE, THE GRIN OF THE DARK, ANCIENT IMAGES and MIDNIGHT SUN above it, but I did enjoy HUNGRY MOON. Particularly the second half. It felt like what would happen if one of Lovecraft’s elder god’s took physical form on Earth and the nightmare realm it would change the world into.

7 thoughts on “Review of HUNGRY MOON by Ramsey Campbell

  1. Years ago I bought 101 Weird Tales and certainly the worst story read like is was written for an elementary school creative writing class. But I read it because the primary elements of the story were so similar (or exactly the same in one case) to those in The Hungry Moon. I know Campbell was very familiar with Weird Tales, is it possible that he took this bad story as a challenge to produce something good out of? In particular, I know some have described the ending of THG as a copout, but it makes perfect sense if it was in the original material he was working with. Anyway, that is my theory number one. The second is that both stories were based on some myth I’ve never heard of. And third, that it was just a coincidence. Does anyone know what his inspiration was for this story?

    1. I’m not sure what Ramsey’s inspiration was for Hungry Moon. There seems to be some Lovecraft overtones to it, particularly “The Moon-Bog”. I am curious to read the story you’re referring to. Do you remember its title?

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