It was the Joy of the Sunset that brought us to speech.
February 18, 2005 6:41 PM   Subscribe

The Night Land, William H Hodgson's surreal fantasy, inspired largely by H G Wells' The Time Machine, (do you really need an amazon link?) but not resembling it all that much, is called by Gardner Dozois (editor of Asimov's Science Fiction since 1985) "one of the flat out strangest novels ever written" in the 21st annual Year's Best Science Fiction anthology. The novel, written at the turn of the century, was also described by H P Lovecraft in the following way: "Allowing for all its faults, it is yet one of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination ever written." How many novels have you read that have an entire web site dedicated to simultaneously exalting it and apologizing for it? Andy Robertson's web site is a companion to the book he edited collecting stories from modern sci-fi writers attempting to pay homage to the under-appreciated novel. (note: The above-mentioned anthology contains a story, also published on Robertson's web site by John C Wright, entitled "Awake In The Night," which is fantastic in its own right, as well.) (Did I mention that Hodgson "brutally treated" Harry Houdini? Scroll To Middle Of Page.)
posted by shmegegge (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Night Land is one of the most horrible books you can enjoy. The language is deliberately arcane and turgid, the plot laughable, the characters terrible, yet somehow it leaves an indelible exposure on your imagination. Perhaps the most distressing thing about it is that if the language was less archaic, that it would be a truly great novel. I've read the collection of short stories, hoping that someone might grasp the greatness behind the prose and make it alive, but none of the authors managed that trick.
posted by Vaska at 7:01 PM on February 18, 2005

Yeah, it's a bitch. I especially like how most people who are introduced to the novel are told to skip the first chapter. I mean, how many ways can you screw a story up and still have people love it a century later?
posted by shmegegge at 7:31 PM on February 18, 2005

Might be worth mentioning Gardner Dozois stepped down as editor at Asimov's, and Sheila Williams took over with the January 2005 issue.
posted by cgc373 at 7:46 PM on February 18, 2005

This is... I've read this thing. Where, or when (I'm guessing I was a teenager) is a bit of a mystery. How odd; I'd forgotten all about it. Thanks.
posted by jokeefe at 1:10 AM on February 19, 2005

Not a planet, not a star, shines in the black heavens. The Days of Light are less than a legend, their stories mouldered to dust amid the chaos of the ancient Libraries. Yet, within their vast arcology, the last Millions of humanity live and thrive.

Now I'm really wondering if Jack Vance read this...
posted by jokeefe at 1:14 AM on February 19, 2005

Full text of The Time Machine for free. Just FYI.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:53 AM on February 19, 2005

The Night Land is a tough read, but it is inspirational. Hodgson was definitely out there. I especially like his weird obsession with pig's snouts, especially through House on the Borderland. On the whole though, I prefer Gene Wolfe's take on the whole milieu.
posted by meehawl at 7:12 AM on February 19, 2005

I haven't read this yet myself, but you can freely download the book in various formats here.
posted by Edame at 7:22 AM on February 19, 2005

jokeefe, according to the same notes I mentioned above, Gardner Dozois specifically mentions Jack Vance's The Dying Earth as a book inspired by Hodgson, as well as Gene Wolfe's The Book Of The New Sun, and Clark Asthon Smith's Zotique.
posted by shmegegge at 1:55 PM on February 19, 2005

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