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The Night Land Volume 1

de William Hope Hodgson

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Séries: The Night Land (Volume 1)

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1073259,641 (3.7)3

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review of
William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land (in 2 volumes)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 10, 2018

This is just the beginning of my review. You will be forever consumed by Monsters in The Night Land if you don't read the full thing here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/625122-the-night-soil

Volume I:

This was possibly the 2nd most tedious bk I've ever read. The 1ST most tedious one is Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans, a bk I find inexcusably horrible (see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/42323-as-i-was-saying-the-making-of-american... ). I don't think anyone will ever top that Stein bk in the tedium dept. One of the things that saves The Night Land from the #1 spot is that it is written w/ imagination, there are interesting things about it for me. I'll get to those as I ramble along.

Lin Carter introduces the bk by saying: "For much of his forty-three years of life, William Hope Hodgson had sailed the seas. From the texture of his experiences he wrought stories of the sea and its mysteries which are without parallel in all of our literature. Not Joseph Conrad—not even Herman Melville—has captured with such depth and insight the strangeness and beauty and haunting terror of the mighty oceans." (pp vii-viii) That's high praise. I STILL haven't read Conrad yet & the only Melville story I've read isn't a sea story so I have no personal experience w/ wch to challenge Carter's claim. I've read Hodgson's The House on the Borderland, wch isn't a sea story (you can read my review of that here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2127802453 ), & I don't have such high praise for it or for The Night Land — I'm curious to read Hodgson's sailor writing.

It's interesting to see what publishers do to make their product more saleable:

"It is a very long novel. It must be close to two hundred thousand words in length; far too long to appear in one volume at our standard price. So we are dividing it in half and bring it to you in two volumes, as we did a year earlier with William Morris's The Well at the World's End." - p viii

Calling it "two hundred thousand words in length" sure does make it seem BIG doesn't it? But that's about 500pp in a small paperback size, not really so big in contrast to many famous novels. It seems like there's at least a little psychology at play: the hero braves the dangers of The Night Land in the 1st pt in search of his soulmate. The 1st pt ends w/o his finding her but the reader knows he's close. After all the tedium of the 1st bk, who's going to be able to withstand the 'need' to move on to the 2nd one & finally get the 'reward'?

Carter informs the reader that "The Arkham House volume appeared in a limited printing of only three thousand copies, destined for collectors. But this printing of The Night Land is in the neighborhood of a hundred thousand copies". - p x

First of all, 3,000 copies is 7 times bigger than the largest edition of any of my bks. 2ndly, "a hundred thousand copies" is mind-boggling for this. I mean, I'm glad they did it but when it comes down to it I don't really think it's that good. It does, sortof, fit into a genre & can be sold as such & it has some strong points but.. "a hundred thousand copies"?! Wow, that really seems like a gamble. Carter further informs the reader that:

"C. S. Lewis, another admirer of this remarkable novel, noted that it bore certain flaws—the maudlin love-dialogue scenes, for example. These scenes only occur in the second half of this very long novel, but they are Victorian sentimentality at its nadir of taste and, in the opinion of many readers (myself among them), they severely injure the cumulative power and movement of the story. My publishers have judiciously trimmed these scenes of their most excruciating emotional excesses. I have closely compared the edited version of these few scenes with the original version, and in my honest opinion Hodgson is improved by a little pruning. Only the most rabid literary purist is likely to object to our tampering with the author's text." - p xii

Ok, I object & I'm NOT "rabid". Still, that objection aside, given that The Night Land is a post-apocalyptic romance novel & that it's already so heavy-handed that it's hard to imagine it getting any worse, it IS hard to imagine it getting any worse & that makes me curious about the deleted parts. The language, wch is faux archaic, is supposedly "Victorian" (or pseudo-Victorian) but, hey!, I read Victorian porn & it ain't nuthin' like this! Nonetheless, even tho the language is almost insufferably contrived for an effect that I don't think quite comes off, I think its persistence is one of the things that makes The Night Land interesting:

"Yet, until that time, I had never met her; for I had been oft and long abroad; and so much given to my Studies and my Exercises when at home, that I had no further knowledge of her than Rumour gave to me odd time; and for the rest, I was well content; for as I have given hint, my books held me, and likewise my Exercises; for I was always an athlete, and never met the man so quick or so strong as I did be; save in some fiction of a tale or in the mouth of a boaster." - p 4

&, yes, this is very romantic, the pre-apocalyptic soulmates share a 'dreamworld':

"And one evening, that I ever remember, as we wandered in the park-lands, she began to say—half unthinking—that it was truly an elves-night. And she stopped herself immediately; as though she thought I should have no understanding; but, indeed, I was upon mine own familiar ground of inward delight; and I replied in a quiet and usual voice, that the Towers of Sleep would grow that night, and I felt in my bones that it was a night to find the Giant's Tomb, or the Tree with the Great Painted Head, or— And surely I stopped very sudden; for she gripped me in that moment" - p 7

This couple seem to live both in the preapocalyptic present (past) & in the postapocalyptic present (future). The male is doing the telling & he's explaining this curious state of being to those in the preapocalyptic times by describing the postapocalyptic ones:

"And so back to my telling. To my right, which was to the North, there stood, very far away, the House of Silence, upon a low hill. And in that House were many lights and no sounds. And so it had been through an uncountable Eternity of Years. Always those steady lights, and no whisper of sound—not even such as our distance-microphones could have discovered. And the danger of this House was accounted the greatest danger of all those Lands." - p 28

Touches like the "House of Silence" interest me & characterize what's best about the bk for me. The extravagant time scale is interesting too & similar to that of The House on the Borderland:

"And so to tell more about the South Watcher. A million years gone, as I have told, it came out from the blackness of the South, and grew steadily nearer through twenty thousand years; but so slow that in no one year could a man perceive that it had moved.

"Yet it had movement, and had come thus far upon its road to the Redoubt, when the Glowing Dome rose out of the ground before it—growing slowly. And this had stayed the way of the Monster; so that through an eternity it had looked towards the Pyramid across the pale glare of the Dome, and seeming to have no power to advance nearer." - p 31

Much of the bk is fanciful & its author seems only minimally concerned w/ any sort of scientific believability. The likelihood of there even being a record of the "South Watcher"'s mvmt for 20,000 yrs seems small — let alone a million yrs. Another example being that in the Night Land there's no light from extraterrestrial sources b/c the sun has died — uh, but what about stars?! Then there's the little problem of how anyone on the surface can endure the low temperatures:

"And, presently, was I clad with the grey armour; and below the armour a close-knit suit of special shaping and texture, to have the shape of the armour, and that I mgiht not die by the cold of the Night Land." - p 99

That's all well & good but there're plenty of naked or near naked humans running around & even the main character takes off his armour to bathe. FREQUENTLY. The author has no qualms about repeating such scenes. OVER & OVER. &, frankly (or frankfurterly), the common volcanoes really aren't enuf to account for a survivable surface temperature. But, HEY!, everything doesn't have to be scientifically believable.

"And when the humans had built the great Pyramid, it had one thousand three hundred and twenty floors; and the thickness of each floor was according to the strength of its need. And the whole height of this pyramid exceeded seven miles, by near a mile, and above it was a tower from which the Watchmen looked (these being called the Monstruwacans)." - pp 32-33

"Now, oft had I heard tell, not only in that great city which occupied the thousandth floor, but in others of the one thousand, three hundred and twenty cities of the Pyramid, that there was somewhere out in the desolation of the Night Lands a second Place of Refuge, where had gathered, in another part of this dead world, some millions of the human race, to fight until the end." - p 38

In The House on the Borderland there's a post-mortem romance (& I don't mean necrophilia) & there's one in The Night Land too. The male gets married to the female in the past & she dies young & then they reunite in the future, initially thru some sort of telepathy:

"But often would I say with my brain-elements "Mirdath!" "Mirdath!"—sending the name out into the darkness; and sometimes would I seem to hear the faint thrilling of the aether around me; as though one answered; but weakly, as it were with a weakened spirit, or by an instrument that lacked of its earth-force." - p 45

"And I called:—"Mirdath! Mirdath," with my brain-elements, into the night; and lo! the far, faint voice spoke again to my spirit through all the darkness of eternity, saying again those words. Yet, though the voice was that of Mirdath the Beautiful it was also the voice of Naani; and I knew in all my heart that this thing was in verity; and that it had been given to me to be birthed once more into this world in the living time of the Only One, with whom my spirit and essence hath mated in all ages through the everlasting." - p 57

I don't know much about the author's life but it's easy to imagine that someone he loved might've died young & that he might've been a devotedly romantic lover.

"Yet, in a while I gathered that all the peoples of the Lesser Redoubt were in very deadly trouble; for that the Earth-Current had failed suddenly and mightily; and they had called her from her sleep, that she might listen whether we answered their callings by the Instrument; but, indeed, no calling had come to us.

"And they who had been of late so joyful, were now grown old with sorrow in but an hour or two" - p 63

Romantics are so sensitive. So everybody in the great Pyramid has a bad hair day b/c after having just discovered that there were other human beings survived upon the Earth they then learn that their fellow humans were now endangered & possibly facing extinction so a rescue force goes forth against all odds, risking the evils of the Night Land. Our hero is not amongst them, being too wise to think there was any chance of survival.

"And my heart stood quiet with fear, and the utter terror of this Monster, which I knew to be surely one of the Great Forces of Evil of that Land, and had power, without doubt, to destroy the spirit. And the Master Monstruwacan leapt towards the Home-Call, and sent the great Sound down to the Ten-thousand, that they might attend, and immediately, he signalled to them to Beware. Yet, already I perceived that they knew of this Utter Danger that was upon them; for I saw them slay the Youths quickly, that their spirits might not be lost; for they were Unprepared. But the men, being Prepared, had the Capsule, and would die swiftly in the last moment." - p 80

Just for pukes & snickers, let's alter the technique of the above a tad to produce this:

"And my heart stood quiet With fear, and the utter terror Of this monster, Which I knew to be surely one of the great forces Of evil Of That land, and Had power, without doubt, To destroy the spirit. And the master monstruwacan leapt towards the home-call, and sent the great sound down To the ten-thousand, That they might attend, and immediately, he signalled To them To beware. Yet, already I perceived That they knew Of this utter danger That was upon them; for I saw them slay the youths quickly, That their spirits might not be lost; For they were unprepared. But the men, being prepared, Had the capsule, and would die swiftly in the last moment."

Ok, I admit that wasn't really that fun but an evil force made me do it. SO, after reading that,

"they went back unto their Cities; and lived there mayhaps an hundred thousand years; and grew wise and cunning in all matters; and their Wise People did make dealings and had experiment with those Forces which are Distasteful and Harmful unto Life; but they did this in Ignorance; for all they had much wisdom; thinking only to Experiment, that they come to greater knowings. But they did open a way for those Forces; and much harm and Pity did come thereby. And then had all People to have Regret; yet too late." - p 110

Really? All that b/c of my little language experiment? The power is tempting me. I think I'll write part of this review only using words that have heretofore been capitalized & see what forces are unleashed:

1st, the vocabulary:























A Beautiful BIG Victorian Experiment For Forces, A Glowing Giant's Wise (Yet Unprepared) Touches That Ten-thousand Romantics Regret. Naani, A Hope To End Evil And Distasteful Exercises With Which Youths Wow People To Sleep. Naani, The World's Watcher, IS Really In The South And The North. Not Now, Monster, Watchmen Utter Prepared Rumour, Stein STILL Studies Silence, Sound Painted Morris's Night, Hodgson's Joseph Just Lands in Hodgson's Head. Years Stlll Pity Carter's Place, A Pyramid Of Monstruwacans With Which William Towers SO That Refuge And Our Only Ok House And Home-Call Had Great Earth-Current. Much Lesser Life May Master It But I'll Beware Of Danger From Harmful Lewis Lin And Herman Hodgson Borderland Arkham Cities. After All, Americans Always Land The Eternity Capsule So That's OVER. NOT. Gertrude Calling Carter, Gertrude Calling Melville, Gertrude Calling Mirdath. Conrad Touches The Tree. Well? Earth Dome C. IS A Tomb. I'm Making S., I've Frequently Had One Hope: First I Utter This "Redoubt" That Monstruwacan Touches. HEY!, It's Great Nonetheless. Nonetheless,

"Now, it may be thought that I did act with a strange valiance, in that I composed my body so properly to slumber, and with but a little trouble of the heart concerning the coming of monsters. And in truth this has seemed somewhat so to me, thinking since that time; but I do but set the thing that is truth; and make not to labour to an illusion of truth; and so must tell much that doth seem improper to the Reality. Yet must all bear with me, and have understanding of the hardness of setting forth with true seeming the honesty of Truth, which, in verity, is better served oft times by timely and cunning lies. And so shall you understand this matter so well as I." - p 128

Did I say that this writing isn't like Victorian porn? "the coming of monsters": I take that back. See how nicely I clomb out of that one?

"and I clomb out of that place of rest. Yet before I did come rightly up into the open, I peered about, and made some surety that no evil Brute was anigh. And then I gat me out" - pp 128-129

Gats ready for the Brute. ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
C.S. Lewis quote aptly opens the book:
"If good stories are comments on life, good novels of fantasy are actual additions to life; they give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our c conception of the range of possible experience. Specimens of this kind will never be common ... Beckford's VATHEK, MacDonald's PHATASTES and LILITH, Eddison's THE WORM OUROBOROS, Tolkien's THE LORD OF THE RINGS, David Lindsay's A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS, Mervyn Peake's, TITUS GROAN ... and W. H. Hodgdon's THE NIGHT LAND, from the unforgettable sombre splendour of the images it presents."
  Dr_Bob | Nov 11, 2020 |
Text edited by Lin Carter ( )
  Georges_T._Dodds | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
William Hope Hodgsonautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Carter, LinIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
LoGrippo, RobertArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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823.9Literature English English fiction Modern Period

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