Substitute Creature by Charles Gilman Review

Reviewed by Shelley Owens

The fourth instalment of the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series was eagerly awaited in our household! Having read the first three books in the series my daughter Emily has formed an affinity with the main characters and dived right in to discover where this adventure would lead her!

The now trademark front cover again has a holographic image of a changing character from the book and the title is another clever play on words. “Substitute Creature” has one of the eeriest changing images so far, perhaps because it isn’t as far-fetched as previous monster images!

Another now familiar trait is each stories ability to be a standalone book although I do think that parts of this particular instalment benefit from at least a little background knowledge to appreciate the significance and impact of some of the plot.

The 7th grade heroes are again plunged (quite literally) into another battle against the dastardly forces at work in the heart of Lovecraft Middle School. The gateways between the school and Tillinghast Mansion in a parallel universe allow a bizarre army of monsters to infiltrate the school at the command of the mad scientist Crawford Tillinghast! These are not books for the faint hearted but a must for those who love the weird and wonderful!

The biggest difference with this book and the others in the series is that it concentrates heavily on the main characters of Robert Arthur and school girl ghost Karina Ortiz as a pre-teen romance is blossoming between the two and the evil Crawford Tillinghast tries to take advantage, attempting to lure Robert into a despicable act. Robert’s friend Glenn features a little less in this story but still has a vital part to play, as does the new character Martin McGinnis, the school janitor who as we discover is more hero than handyman.

As the children’s librarian and confidant Ms. Lavinia (Crawford Tillinghast’s sister) is replaced by another evil substitute teacher, a strange snowstorm descends around the school trapping our heroes, Robert’s school nurse mother, the janitor and another student inside the school. The storm is a necessary part of the mad scientists plot to allow strange, evil creatures “The Old Ones” to pass over into his mansion and everyone trapped inside the school is in grave danger!

The storyline is brought to life by the excellent illustrations of Eugene Smith and our favourites this time around are the Old Ones, they are fabulous – if you’re not too old to remember them, they reminded me of an evil Flump!

Although the book wraps up a big part of the ongoing storyline and would bring a natural end to the series, there are a few unanswered questions and many directions that a fifth book in the series could go – where is Ms. Lavinia, will they ever rescue everyone that has vanished into the mansion, what does Crawford Tillinghast have planned for the Old Ones, what will Robert’s mother make of his story and how will Karina cope with the sudden change to her situation?

Emily and I both hope that these questions and more will be answered in another instalment but we will have to wait and see…

We think the storyline was a little less dramatic this time around and that Karina’s change in circumstance could have featured more heavily after three instalments building up to this moment but perhaps the author Charles Gilman is saving that for another time?

We give this instalment a 4/5 – more drama please 🙂

Rating: 4/5

Available to buy from Amazon here.

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