[Short Story Review] The Colour Out of Space (H.P. Lovecraft, 1927) ★★★★★

book cover H.P. Lovecraft

The Colour Out of Space delivers cosmic and bodily horror in a tale of pure dread.

The Colour Out of Space is a cosmic weird fiction tale that combines cosmic beauty with dread and gruesome deaths. With a storytelling writing style it describes the coming of a meteor and the horrible events that came after. It’s a gripping tale that combines superstition, science fiction and cosmic horror, that refuses to give an answer of what really happened. It’s a mysterious horror tale that shows human insignificance, making it all the more dreadful.


A nameless narrator visits the countryside of Arkham to survey for a new water reservoir. But this place has become a blasted heath. Nobody wants to tell him about its history but a man who does, Ammi Pierce tells him that over 50 years ago something terrible has happened here that were called the strange days. 

The narrator tells the story that Ammi tells him about the Gardner family who used to live there when a meteor crashed which was composed of a substance with a color they have never seen before. The meteor hid multiple hollow globules. And scientists from the Miskatonic University came to take samples and study them, without any results.

When time passes, the land of Nahum Gardner grows colorful and rich. But the crops, that are bigger than ever, taste foul and are useless. Also some animals are found with distorted bodies. After a year his wife Nabby goes insane and Nahum has to lock her up in the attic while everything around them turns from the weird undefinable color into grey colors and turns brittle. After the life stock dies with crumbling bodies, other animals have run away, and the well seems to hide a strange entity. It takes the youngest son Merwin, drives Thaddeus insane and turns oldest boy Zenas in a zombie-like being. 

All the while Ammi can do nothing but watch the family as they crumble down. 

A favorite quote

‘It was just a colour out of space – a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes.’ 

Why you should read it

The story has a buildup that reads as a mystery. Although the story is told by the nameless narrator who heard the story from Ammi, it feels if we were there right beside Ammi. Feeling helpless and terrified. While he tells everything he knows, he didn’t come to know everything himself. Not about what exactly took place at the farm nor what exactly was hidden inside the globules. 

Only the effects of the strangeness of the color are told, not what and how it was caused, but only what it did to the crops, the animals and the family itself. It gets stranger and creepier till it results in pure horror. 

Although it has a strong scientific approach, and an emotional approach too because of Ammi’s tale, the superstition of the village folk also plays a part in the isolation and alienation of the Gardners which makes it all the more tragic. Ammi is the only one who is concerned about them and sets his own fears aside to help them, even if they cannot be helped anymore. 

It’s a tragic tale about a fine family, but also a gruesome tale, with body horror elements, although they are implicitly told instead of focusing on the gore. Although the slimy and oozing substance in the well is cause enough for great bodily horror as is the monstrosity that Nabby has become. 

It can only be imagined what happened to them and with your own imagination you can make it even worse. It has a very ominous and foreboding atmosphere, but it also has a wondrous vibe surrounding the color. The entity that hides within stays very elusive and shows the insignificance of humankind, our inability to control it or even understand it, making it all the more scary. We know so little about the universe and what is in it, showing the real cosmic horror that gets a hold on tiny humans.

Some glimpse is given to us, implying that entities lived inside the globule. Some died at the university, others fed themselves of all organic life, including the minds and bodies of the Gardners. One made it back to where it came from, having fed enough, but one probably still is bound to the well… 

My favorite part

When Ammi goes to the farm for the last time Nahum is still alive, it’s a pretty good horror scene that makes your imagination run wild. Its cosmic horror combined with body horror and the fear after his discovery at the attic is tangible. But that’s only the beginning, when he goes downstairs, what’s left of Nahum is described in such a horrific way, with his own speech that is hardly coherent anymore, and is truly terrifying. The splashing sound near the well makes the horror all too real for Ammi and is spine-chilling. 

A favorite quote

‘It had come to meet him, and was still alive after a fashion. Whether it had crawled whether it had been dragged by any external force, Ammi could not say; but the death had been at it. Everything had happened in the last half-hour, but collapse, greying and disintegration were already far advanced. There was a horrible brittleness, and dry fragments were scaling off. Ammi could not touch it, but looked horridly into the distorted parody that had been a face.’


Rating: ★★★★★

Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★★★

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The Colour Out of Space was written by H.P. Lovecraft and first published in Amazing Stories in 1927. It consists of approximately 23-78 pages depending on the edition.

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