This is Hodgson's best work, or so critics generally agree. His creation, Carnacki, arrogant, cynical, rude and opinionated, is the most memorable character in his books.
The stories themselves are a mix of detective stories, where fake ghosts and hauntings are uncovered, and some truly horrifying stories of real ghosts. Hodgson is not a major literary figure, but these stories will live on for the sheer force of his imagination.
This is Hodgson's longest book, and perhaps the one that grates most against modern sensibilities. It is in form a love story, told as a dream of the very far future, by a narrator whose beloved wife, Midrath, has just died in (roughly) Hodgson's time.
The dream serves only as an introduction to one of the strangest romances ever written, set far in the future, when humanity survivies only in one heavily fortified enclave - the Redoubt.
The writing and dialogue are self-consciously archaic. A short excerpt gives the general idea -
"In my earliest knowledge of that place, I was a youth, seventeen years grown, and my memory tells me that when first I waked, or came, as it might be said, to myself, in that Future, I stood in one of the embrasures of the Last Redoubt--that great Pyramid of grey metal which held the last millions of this world from the Powers of the Slayers."
Five hundred pages of this might seem hard going, but Hodgson's extraordinary imagination draws the reader in. Many of the themese are similar to those in his 'House on the Borderland', but this is a far more detailed and extensive elaboration of his vision.
The love is between the future narrator and the Maid, and their relationship seems very odd by our standards. Hodgson was himself a physically and morally brave man, who espouses in this book a kind of chivalric ideal, of male physical dominance, and female moral dominance. The relationship betweeen Launcelot and the Maid of Shallot in Malory is perhaps a more familiar model.
The Night Land is very strange, but also memorable, visionary and ultimately enchanting. If you like Hodgson's other stuff - read this too, you won't regret it.
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