Friday, September 25, 2009

The House On the Borderland and Other Novels - William Hope Hodgson

Omnibus edition that includes

The House On the Borderland
The Boats Of the Glen Carrig
The Ghost Pirates
The Night Land

It includes an introduction by China Mieivlle, giving something of Hodgson's history - an ex-seafaring bodybuilder type, apparently.


You could say that The House On the Borderland is what you get if you take a H. P. Lovecraft type set-up and punch a huge chunk of Olaf Stapledon right into the heart of it.

Which is, indeed, a rather strange combination. Swine thing monsters attacking - and the death of the solar system, all in one bok, not to mention in one strange house.

The set-up is visitors on a fishing trip find a book - and inside that book is an account of madness - or at least they hope it is, because it is rather too disturbing otherwise.

I'd give this a 3.75.

3.5 out of 5

This throws you right into the middle of it, so to speak, in the boats.

Told as an account of the events of this attempt to return home after maritime misfortune you will find no dialogue therein, and only occasional use of names. Although lots of bo'sun, for example.

The boat men find a weedy patch of sea, and an island, and a hulk of a ship with others stuck in it - and more than a few giant sea creatures and monsters as the horror builds into an attempt to get away.

For example :-

"Now, scarce had we lit one fire, when the bo'sun cried out to the big seaman to make another, further along the edge of the cliff, and, in the same instant, I shouted, and ran over to that part of the hill which lay towards the open sea; for I had seen a number of moving things about the edge of the seaward cliff. Now here there was a deal of shadow; for there were scattered certain large masses of rock about this part of the hill, and these held off both the light of the moon, and that from the fires. Here, I came abruptly upon three great shapes moving with stealthiness towards the camp, and, behind these, I saw dimly that there were others. Then, with a loud cry for help, I made at the three, and, as I charged, hey rose up on end at me, and I found that they overtopped me, and their vile tentacles were reached out at me. Then I was smiting, and gasping, sick with a sudden stench, the stench of the creatures which I had come already to know. And then something clutched at me, something slimy and vile, and great mandibles champed in my face; but I stabbed upward, and the thing fell from me, leaving me dazed and sick, and smiting weakly. Then there came a rush of feet behind, and a sudden blaze, and the bo'sun crying out encouragement, and, directly, he and the big seaman thrust
themselves in front of me, hurling from them great masses of burning weed, w hich they had borne, each of them, up a long reed. And immediately the things were gone, slithering hastily down over the cliff edge."

3.5 out of 5

Another short novel that is a recount of a scary passage at see. This one is of the 'they're going to get us' variety. Spectres and shadows abound, as those on board get more terrified:

"They can't be flesh and blood," Tammy interrupted. "Where would they
live? Besides, that first one I saw, I thought I could see through it.
And this last one--the Second Mate would have seen it. And they would

"Not necessarily," I said.

"Oh, but I'm sure they're not," he insisted. "It's impossible--"

"So are ghosts--when you're feeling sensible," I answered. "But I'm not
saying they _are_ flesh and blood; though, at the same time, I'm not
going to say straight out they're ghosts--not yet, at any rate."

"Where do they come from?" he asked, stupidly enough.

"Out of the sea," I told him. "You saw for yourself!"

"Then why don't other vessels have them coming aboard?" he said. "How do
you account for that?"

"In a way--though sometimes it seems cracky--I think I can, according to
my idea," I answered.

"How?" he inquired again.

"Why, I believe that this ship is open, as I've told you--exposed,
unprotected, or whatever you like to call it. I should say it's
reasonable to think that all the things of the material world are
barred, as it were, from the immaterial; but that in some cases the
barrier may be broken down. That's what may have happened to this ship.
And if it has, she may be naked to the attacks of beings belonging to
some other state of existence."

3 out of 5

An interesting idea, this doomed strange existence at the end. However, it is completely and utterly unreadable. The biggest abuse of the semi-colon in the history of the world, perhaps:

"Yet, truly, there was no use in help that was yet to come; for the need
did be then and instant; and I nowise loath to use my strength before
my sweet cousin. And I stepped forward, briskly, as I have told; and
the end of my staff I drove into the body of the left-ward man, so that
he dropped like a dead man. And I hit very sharply at the head of
another, and surely crackt it for him; for he made instantly upon the
earth; but the third man I met with my fist, and neither had he any
great need of a second blow; but went instant to join his companions,
and the fight thus to have ended before it was even proper begun, and I
laughing a little with a proper pride, to know the bewilderment that I
perceived in the way that the Lady Mirdath, my cousin, stood and
regarded me through the dusk of the hushed even."

1.5 out of 5

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