I had the great fortune to game with Talanian at Gamehole Con. He ran “Rats in the Walls.” I promptly bought the adventure and have run it twice: first as the beginning of an AS&SH campaign that never quite got the traction it needed, second as a dungeon sneaked into a Swords & Wizardry homebrew. It worked out memorably both times.
I also had the good fortune to interview Talanian here.
As far as reading the book. Part of the pleasure in reading it, I believe, is because of the evocative, Weird Tales prose and spelling Talanian employs. Here’s a taste:
MAGICIAN: The magician is the archetypal sorcerer: the conjurer, dweomercræfter, enchanter, evoker, and thaumaturge. He may be a guild apprentice trained by masters of sorcery, or he might learn his craft from an heretical hedge wizard who dwells beyond the outskirts of civilization. Regardless of his education, the magician learns to harness eldritch forces from outré dimensions. He accomplishes these marvels through the memorization of strange and oft-forbidden incantations and formulæ, accompanied by the use of verbal recitations, weird gestures, and peculiar components. The magician is the most powerful and versatile of sorcerers, rightly feared and renowned by even the mightiest of men and monsters.
As far as it being the best version of “D&D.” I get that. It’s a really good rules system, and it feels familiar to anyone who knows D&D—especially the older versions. But I think you guys had it better with “Dungeons & Elder Things.” Now, I never played the early forms of D&D at the time they were being published, but AS&SH feels notably different. In other words, it doesn’t embrace all of Appendix N (no Elves or Dwarves—at least not the referents that most of us are thinking of) but just the Weird Fantasy. It might be that one can use AS&SH mechanics to play D&D, but I think you’re better off with OSRIC, 1e, B/X, Swords & Wizardry, or almost any other straightforward retroclone.
Setting. Oh man oh man oh man, you guys, the setting! It is so weird and wondrous. The world is flat! The oceans literally pour off its edges into the gulf of night. Speaking of night, Darkness lasts for years. The seasons are LONG. I believe that you can pull the rules out and run any kind of humancentric D&D, but, I believe even more strongly that, to do so would be to omit possibly the best part. Don’t forget the “races,” Classes and Beasts have been carefully curated for the setting. I believe that this is for the intended experience.