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The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson

The Night Land (original 1912; edition 1981)

by William Hope Hodgson

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334849,929 (3.34)32
Title:The Night Land
Authors:William Hope Hodgson
Info:Sphere Books Limited (1981), Paperback, 417 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson (1912)

  1. 10
    City at the End of Time by Greg Bear (emf1123)
    emf1123: Greg Bear's "City at the End of Time" is a homage to the classic "The Night Land" (Wm H. Hodgson), and --having read both--Greg Bear's version tells a better story in a similar landscape, and is much more readable. If you struggled with, or gave up on, The Night Land; try City at the End of Time first, then go back to The Night Land if you enjoyed Bear's version.… (more)

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» See also 32 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
'The Night Land' has an unpromising start with a love story set at some point in Olde Englande, but then the object of the narrator’s love dies and he experiences a vision of a distant future time and a similarly distant future existence. We are supposed to accept that the protagonist and his One True Love share souls across time, and indeed this provides a motivation for the future protagonist’s actions. But really, this was not necessary. Viewed as a story set at the far end of time, when the sun has died and the Earth is plunged into eternal night, the story could stand on its own in those terms. After all, 'The Night Land' dates from 1912, yet Forster’s 'The Machine Stops' was written in 1909 and quite happily plunged the reader into a future time without any framing device connecting it to the present day.

All the same elements that we have already seen in Hodgson's other novels are present here: weird creatures of unknown origin and savage intent; strange situations; striking imagery. Yet this all works; the beasts and altered men of 'The Night Land' don’t need any explanation because they are not located in the world we know. And Hodgson introduces what must be science fiction’s first megastructure; we are some way into the story before we realise that the Last Redoubt, the great pyramid housing the remaining humans on Earth, is several miles high and of similarly impressive footprint; Hodgson describes the mechanisms of the Pyramid in some detail. In so many ways, the story provides a foretaste of later works by other hands – Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 'We', Algis Budrys’ 'Rogue Moon' and the Strugatsky Brothers’ 'Roadside Picnic' (filmed by Andrei Tarkovsky as 'Stalker') all came to mind at different times.

Yet the novel is written in the same cod-archaic language as the first Olde Englishe chapter; and this gets very irritating very quickly. Our super-competent hero – possibly channelling the author’s fascination with physical fitness and body images – evades all the horrors and perils of the setting to rescue a survivor from a forgotten outstation of the Redoubt. This survivor turns out to be another incarnation of the Best Belovéd from the first chapter, and the description of the relationship between this survivor and our hero rapidly turns increasingly toe-curling in its tweeness. Of course, the hero’s attitude to this woman is typical of its time – there is a sequence of corporal punishment that we would find totally unacceptable today – so it is refreshing when the Belovéd suddenly displays a feisty side. But sadly, this is only temporary.

I ended up skimming the text as life was too short for all the cod-archaic language and all the stuff about ‘Mine Own Belovéd”. But the pace increases as the protagonists get nearer to their goal, their return to the Pyramid; I was torn between rushing to the end just to get the novel finished with and actually wanting to see how it ended and whether there would be a happy ending or not.

Despite its stylistic problems, 'The Night Land' is probably one of the most iconic proto-science fiction novels of its time; the world-building (well, dismantling, really) and the visual descriptions are stunning. It would actually film rather well, I think; a film adaptation could make the female protagonist a lot tougher, and easily cut out the reams of superfluous material and drill down to the weird and visually stunning adventure story underneath.
1 vote RobertDay | Nov 1, 2017 |
This book is now lining the bottom of our cat's litter box. ( )
  Garrison0550 | May 10, 2016 |
"Eso es el amor, que tu espiritu viva en santidad natural con el amado, y vuestros cuerpos sean un goce suave y natural que nunca perderá su misterio amoroso ...y que no exista la vergüenza, y que todas las cosas sean lo más y limpias, por efecto de una inmensa comprensión; y que l hombre sea un héroe y un niño ante la mujer ; y que la mujer sea una luz santa del espíritu, y una compañera completa, y al mismo tiempo alegre comprensión para el hombre ...y esto es el amor humano...porque esa es la particular gloria del amor, que es suavidad y grandeza con todo, y es fuego que quema toda pequeñez; de modo que en este mundo todo es haber hallado a la persona amada, y entonces, muerta la bajeza, la alegría y la caridad danzan por siempre." William Hope Hogson. ( )
  darioha | Feb 10, 2016 |
I wanted to like this, but the writing stopped me. I have no idea whether it's a good story or not. The writing style is incredibly hard to read; not purple prose (which can be good) nor simply archaic, but very roundabout and fussy and thoroughly getting in the way of whatever story may be there. I got two chapters in and then gave up at the prospect of more. I don't even know what genre it is - it's part of a sci-fi series, but everything I saw looked like historical fiction to me. ( )
  Shimmin | Jun 22, 2015 |
Getting through the Night Land, for both protagonist (reader) is a major challenge. The monotony of the journey over many weeks (hundreds of pages) can lead to despair. Fortunately for the reader you can quit at any time. So why try? Because just as there is occasional respite in the darkness by a fire pit or warm pool, so too are there occasional images of a grim far future that far out do those presented by the far more readable works of Wells, Vance, or Clark Ashton Smith. From the great Redoubt to the Watchers to the tale of rolling cities following the sun on a very slowly turning Earth. Worth the slog through the incredibly repetitious and rtificial language, rampant sexism, and middle school-level sexual yearnings? Hard to say. ( )
  ChrisRiesbeck | Jul 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William Hope Hodgsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carter, LinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, Peter A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pugi, Jean-PierreTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stableford, BrianForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"This to be Love, that your spirit to live in a natural holiness with the Beloved, and your bodies to be a sweet and natural delight that shall be never lost of a lovely mystery."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0722147651, Paperback)

Complete, single volume edition of William Hodgson's 1912 fantasy classic, "The Night Land." Acclaimed by H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Lin Carter, this is a seminal horror fantasy of the first water. It takes place on a dead planet in the future where the remains of the human race struggle against bizarre forces. Full of strange marvels.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:02 -0400)

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The Night Land is a tale of the remote future ? billions of years after the death of the sun. It is one of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination ever written . . . there is a sense of cosmic alienage, breathless mystery, and terrified expectancy unrivalled in the whole range of literature . . . this fantasy of a night-black, dead planet, with the remains of the human race concentrated in a stupendously vast metal pyramid and besieged by monstrous, hybrid, and altogether unknown forces of darkness, is something that no reader can forget. ? H. P. Lovecraft. The tale of a heroic search for life beyond the darkness, this groundbreaking 1912 story was the first work of modern fantasy to feature a dying Earth. The inspiration for countless science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels, the book's legions of fans included Clark Ashton Smith, who remarked that "In all literature, there are few works so sheerly remarkable, so purely creative, as The Night Land."… (more)

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