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Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson
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Darker Than You Think (1948)

by Jack Williamson

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» See also 25 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Read as part of the Retro Hugo Voters' Packet - although it was disqualified as a nominee: "The finalist “Darker Than You Think” by Jack Williamson was mistakenly categorized as a novelette. The story is a novella, but did not receive enough nominations to be a finalist as a novella."

Personally, I'd say this is definitely an actual novel - the pacing and structure give it that feel. It's really not that short, either.

Wait... ah-ha!

"Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson, originally a novelette, was expanded into novel length and published by Fantasy Press in 1948. The short version was published in Unknown in 1940."

I'm pretty sure that I actually read the 1948 novel-length version. (Because it kept not-ending. Not that it really dragged on, but I thought I was reading a short piece, and I wasn't...)

Either way, I thought this would've made a great 1970's or 1960's horror film. It would sit on the shelf comfortably next to The Wicker Man and Rosemary's Baby.

Journalist Will Barbee is ready to meet the returning members of an expedition to far-off lands. He's sure that he'll get the scoop on whatever their discoveries were, because it just so happens that he was college friends with the researchers. However, while waiting for them to meet the press, he finds himself next to a young woman, April Bell, who introduces herself as a budding journalist and is eager for him to give her professional tips. Barbee feels an intense mix of attraction and mysterious repulsion regarding the young woman. The press conference ends up being prevented due to a shocking tragedy - and Barbee's feelings toward April begin to include a suspicion that she might somehow be guilty of a terrible crime. That doesn't stop him from asking her out to dinner, though.

As events progress, we learn that whatever ancient secrets or artifacts were discovered on the expedition may be a threat to a modern cult of witches or other supernatural beings. Against his will, Barbee is drawn into diabolical doings...

Not bad; glad I read it.

I wouldn't have voted for it to win a Hugo, however, mainly because it's horror and not speculative fiction.
( )
1 vote AltheaAnn | Aug 4, 2016 |
Read as part of the Retro Hugo Voters' Packet - although it was disqualified as a nominee: "The finalist “Darker Than You Think” by Jack Williamson was mistakenly categorized as a novelette. The story is a novella, but did not receive enough nominations to be a finalist as a novella."

Personally, I'd say this is definitely an actual novel - the pacing and structure give it that feel. It's really not that short, either.

Wait... ah-ha!

"Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson, originally a novelette, was expanded into novel length and published by Fantasy Press in 1948. The short version was published in Unknown in 1940."

I'm pretty sure that I actually read the 1948 novel-length version. (Because it kept not-ending. Not that it really dragged on, but I thought I was reading a short piece, and I wasn't...)

Either way, I thought this would've made a great 1970's or 1960's horror film. It would sit on the shelf comfortably next to The Wicker Man and Rosemary's Baby.

Journalist Will Barbee is ready to meet the returning members of an expedition to far-off lands. He's sure that he'll get the scoop on whatever their discoveries were, because it just so happens that he was college friends with the researchers. However, while waiting for them to meet the press, he finds himself next to a young woman, April Bell, who introduces herself as a budding journalist and is eager for him to give her professional tips. Barbee feels an intense mix of attraction and mysterious repulsion regarding the young woman. The press conference ends up being prevented due to a shocking tragedy - and Barbee's feelings toward April begin to include a suspicion that she might somehow be guilty of a terrible crime. That doesn't stop him from asking her out to dinner, though.

As events progress, we learn that whatever ancient secrets or artifacts were discovered on the expedition may be a threat to a modern cult of witches or other supernatural beings. Against his will, Barbee is drawn into diabolical doings...

Not bad; glad I read it.

I wouldn't have voted for it to win a Hugo, however, mainly because it's horror and not speculative fiction.
( )
1 vote AltheaAnn | Aug 4, 2016 |
I loved this story! DARKER THAN YOU THINK, by Jack Williamson, is a classic old-school shapeshifter novel originally published in the 1940s.
Will Barbee is an alcoholic newspaper writer, who goes to greet his ex-colleagues at the airport after they have been digging for artifacts in Mongolia for two years. Something isn’t right and the lead researcher dies on the tarmac before he can make a big announcement.
Barbee wants to find out why the researcher was murdered and before long more people are murdered, only it seems to Barbee that it was HE who murdered the other ones in his dreams. He thinks it may be the alcohol fueling these incredible dreams. Is he really responsible for these killings? What does the red-haired woman have to do with all of this? Who are his friends and who shouldn’t he trust? The writing of Barbee's internal turmoil is great.
The novel sounds very much like something written in the 1940s – I could visualize it being a black and white film as I was reading. This made it just that much more wonderful to read!
Any horror fan would appreciate this early rendition of a vampire/shapeshifter story. Williamson won many awards over his writing career, including a Grand Master Nebula and a Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
This is a book that will stay in my library. I also recommend his story, THE HUMANOIDS.
( )
1 vote BooksOn23rd | Nov 25, 2015 |
Great story.
The beginnings of witches, vampires, were wolves, and shape shifters. He weaves them all together in one book. ( )
1 vote caanderson | Jan 24, 2015 |
My reactions to reading this novel in 2002.

I originally read this novel because Fortean Miriam de Ford listed it as one of the sf works influenced by Charles Fort. I see no evidence of that. Fort is not mentioned or even obliquely alluded to. I think, amongst other things, Williamson was clearly influenced by the work of Rhine on psychic powers, and the notion that these strange powers (which are mentioned in, partially, Fort’s Wild Talents) may be studied scientifically almost certainly comes from there. If there is any Charles Fort influence, it may be by way of Eric Frank Russell’s Sinister Barrier.

Both novels were published in John Campbell’s Unknown magazine, Russell’s in 1939, Williamson in 1940. Both novels feature a broad battle between humans and non-humans, Russell’s Vitons and Williamson’s witch-people, with the evidence of those battles showing up in human psychology and odd events. Both the non-human races feed, in some way, off humans either biologically or using them, in this novel, as slave labor in man’s past.

I was surprised at the tone and narrative approach of Williamson’s novel. The initial transformation of protagonist Will Barbee into a beast is only briefly described. Williamson also seems to have gone out of his way to undercut, through constant mentions of the bestial (cat like grace, predatory eyes) nature of April Bell and the sense that Barbee has met Dr. Glenn before, a lot of the suspense others would have tried milk from the plot. We are in no doubt (especially, of course, since we know we’re reading a fantasy) that April Bell really is a shapechanger. We aren’t surprised to find that Dr. Glenn, the rational Freudian, really is a member of homo lycanthropus.

I don’t think, given the very unsubtle clues he keeps giving for these characters having a hidden nature, Williamson ever expected to fool the reader. Rather, the novel is really the struggle between a man’s unconscious desires (Barbee always shapechanges at night, when he’s asleep, except at novel’s end) and his waking morality. At first it seems like Williamson is doing a sort of Freudian allegory as Barbee helps kill his friends and acquaintances at night and feels guilty about it (and frequently doubting he’s morally culpable or has actually assisted in their deaths) during the day. Barbee, after all, might have reasons for desiring the death of Professor Mondrick who refused his assistance or Sam Quain, the man who married a woman Barbee might have. These desires might account for his fantasies. But the reader does not really believe they are fantasies. Nor does Barbee give in to April Bell’s calls to kill out of sexual lust for her or unconscious desires. His largely witch blood calls to him. He must kill his friends because they are what they are, different from him.

The plot can be seen as Barbee resisting the evil suggestions of April Bell, her sexual temptations overcoming his moral judgment. But there are early suggestions that a race war is going on between different versions of humanity. Gradually, after participating in murder or being manipulated into assisting Bell’s killings, Barbee accepts his racial heritage as the werewolf messiah the Child of Night. From a human perspective, he seems consumed by evil. Yet, from a biological perspective, he is helping quell, reluctantly, a threat to his kind.

Even though I knew that Barbee would answer the call of his kind, the novel kept me in suspense with this moral question. Williamson creates quite an inventive rationale for his plot which makes this sf rather than straight horror. His witch-people (who can change into many shapes imaginary and from nature) can sense probabilities and manipulate them (talk of quantum mechanics is used briefly). They can change any night, not just during the full moon, though, as with traditional werewolves, they can be harmed by silver and, it turns out at novel’s end, radium is the great weapon discovered in the ruins of Ala-shan. They are telepathic. The origins of the witch-people lie in man’s prehistory during an Ice Age. Threatened by glaciation, a human mutation (and Williamson throws in Medellin inheritance science here -- evidently new enough to require a fairly detailed explanation) developed the ability to throw their consciousness into collections of matter removed from their body. Williamson goes on to show how a great many mythologies (as well as folklore about shapechangers) stem from the human--witch-people battle and history.

This may not be the first horror novel to show not only a modern battle of humanity with an alien race (though here simply a cousin) but its historical pasts and manifestations in myth and literature and legend, but it may be the first to do so in detail. H. P. Lovecraft did something similar but he didn’t show the beginnings of the conflict or provide as much detail. In some sense, this novel reminded me of Erich von Daniken’s later non-fiction works purporting to find ancient astronauts via archaeology and myth.

I liked that Barbee was the product of a witch-people eugenics program and not just a random sport. Williamson rationalizes this necessity by talking about how many genes separate true man from the witch-people (most people have a combination of genes) and the very remote possibility that a full blood or even three-quarter blood lycanthrop would appear by chance.
( )
3 vote RandyStafford | Feb 9, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jack Williamsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jones, JeffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klein, David G.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morrill, RowenaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winter, Douglas E.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The girl came up to Will Barbee while he stood outside of the glass-and-stucco terminal building at Trojan Field, Clarendon's new municipal airport, hopefully watching the leaden sky for a glimpse of the incoming planes.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0575075465, Paperback)

The unsettling dreams begin for small-town reporter Will Barbee not long after he first meets the mysterious and beautiful April Bell. They are vivid, powerful and deeply disturbing nightmares in which he commits atrocious acts. And, one by one, his friends are meeting violent deaths. It is clear to Barbee that he is embroiled in something far beyond human understanding, something unspeakably evil. And it intimately involves the seductive, dangerously intoxicating April, and the question, 'Who is the Child of the Night?' When he discovers the answer to that, his world will change utterly.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:09 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Who is the Child of Night? That's what small-town reporter Will Barbee must find out. Inexorably drawn into investigating a rash of grisly deaths, he soon finds himself embroiled in something far beyond mortal understanding. Doggedly pursuing his investigations, he meets the mysterious and seductive April Bell and starts having disturbing, tantalizing dreams in which he does terrible things-things that are stranger and wilder than his worst nightmares. Then his friends begin dying one by one, and he slowly realizes that an unspeakable evil has been unleashed. As Barbee's world crumbles around him in a dizzying blizzard of madness, the intoxicating, dangerous April pushes Barbee ever closer to the answer to the question "Who is the Child of Night?" When Barbee finds out, he'll wish he'd never been born.… (more)

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