At the Mountains of Madness (1936)
by H.P. Lovecraft
An unnamed narrator relates the account of an Arctic expedition that encounters a hideous lost city in an effort to discourage more expeditions to the area.
One of H.P. Lovecraft’s most famous stories is basically a creepy travelogue.
An effective setup and a frightening resolution sandwich a long middle section in which our explorers wander and wander and wander through the city, describing what they see and what they infer about the lives of the beings who constructed it.
This section is frequently dull, as Lovecraft spends a lot of time describing in minute detail structures that I nevertheless couldn’t visualize.
The history of the otherworldly architects is interesting, but it is all inferred from murals by the narrators and I found myself again and again wondering, “How the hell could they conclude that from a picture?”
Still, there is that eerie beginning and that startling conclusion.
And he gets bonus points for applying the adjective ‘grotesque’ to a penguin.