In the far future, an unnamed narrator, who along with what remains of the human race dwells uneasily in an underground fortress-city surrounded by brooding, chaotic, relentless Watching Things, Silent Ones, Hounds, Giants, "Ab-humans", Brutes, and enormous slugs and spiders, follows a telepathic distress signal into the unfathomable darkness. The Earth's surface is frozen. At some point in the distant past, overreaching scientists breached "the Barrier of Life" that separates our dimension from one populated by "monstrosities and Forces" who have sought humankind's destruction ever since. Armed only with a lightsaber-esque weapon called a Diskos, and fortified only by his sense of honor, our hero braves every sort of terror en route to rescue a woman he loves but has never met.
"[Good science fiction stories] give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience.... W. H. Hodgson's The Night Land [makes the grade] in eminence from the unforgettable sombre splendour of the images it presents...." (C.S. Lewis)
"For all its flaws and idiosyncrasies, The Night Land is utterly unsurpassed, unique, astounding. A mutant vision like nothing else there has ever been." (China Miéville)
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Tough read, but rewarding
Easily, this book has one of the best concepts ever written, the idea of a future world where the sun has died and humanity holds out in a giant metallic pyramid, protected by some ill-understood force from mountain sized monsters and other crepuscular beasts is fantastic. But not only is the premise imaginative the world is full of, if not realistic detail, then at least overflows with romantic, at times sentimental, creativity. My favorite creatures being the watchers and the slugs. Truly for it's imagination it is deserving of broader recognition.
However, as much as I wanted to love this novel, the style interferes too much with enjoyment by any reader, especially a modern one. The romantic sentiment helps with the adventurous spirit and tone but weighs it down in other sections - especially the whole chapter dedicated to the seemingly insane coquettish behaviors of his beloved after he rescues her from the smaller redoubt. Those that might be inclined to the story's romantic aspect will no doubt be turned off by it's historical misogyny. The affected speech is not only foreign to modern ears but would have been ill-constructed in the period it was trying to imitate. This affected English is not only distracting, but really impedes a lot of the action, much to the books detriment.
By the end of the novel the listener will hate the phrases, "in verity" and "as you can know/imagine/comprehend/grasps etc."
The opening scenes in the the Night Lands, chapter 2-3, where the world of the the Night Land is set down for you. Certainly there are cool monsters and journey and vistas, seas of fire and such, but for me at least, the initial introduction was the best.
Hard to tell it was hard to listen to the whole story, the voice sounds a bit monotone, but I feel a lot of that was more the text, and that there was very little anyone could have done to liven it up. At any rate he got me through the whole book, which I could never finish on my own so that is worth something. I supposed I might give him another shot.
Unknowns, these characters belong in a romantic and adventurous period that most major actors would look out of place in. Best you could maybe hope for is a Sean Bean type character but even he wouldn't really fit.
Maybe Ray Winstone?
Definitely for fans or students of weird fiction, not for the general consumption. It is a very tough read, and at time may make you drowsy, but if you can stand the monotone and try to re imagine what is at times poorly described, it becomes very impressive and rewarding.
Monstrous Meandering Unfathomable Obscurity
- Doug D. Eigsti