"In a language surely of his own invention, Mr. Hodgson gives us the most touching, exquisite spirit romance that has ever been written."-Bookman
e of the road. But the second hind, having heard my name, loosed from the tiring-maid, and ran for his life; and, indeed, my strength was known all about that part.
And I caught Mirdath the Beautiful by her shoulders, and shook her very soundly, in my anger. And afterward, I sent the maid onward; and she, having no word from her Mistress to stay, went forward a little; and in this fashion we came at last to the hedge-gap, with the Lady Mirdath very hushed; but yet walking anigh to me, as that she had some secret pleasure of my nearness. And I led her through the gap, and so homeward to the Hall; and there bid her good-night at a side door that she held the key of. And, truly, she bid me good-night in an utter quiet voice; and was almost as that she had no haste to be gone from me that night.
Yet, when I met her on the morrow, she was full of a constant impudence to me; so that, having her alone to myself, when the dusk was come, I asked her why she would never be done of her waywardness; because
Incredible. At least as powerful as Lord of the Rings. The odd prose style did not bother me at all. Probably the greatest fantasy horror novel ever written.
I made it 43% of the way through this public-domain book on my Kindle. I'd previously read and enjoyed the imperfect but engaging Carnacki: The Ghost-Finder and The House on the Borderland. But this is just silly. The frame narrative is cool...17th-century man loses his love then finds his memories in the mind of a man in the distant future on an earth whose sun has darkened and whose lands are filled with monstrous creatures and hideous supersized towers trying to destroy the last remnants of humanity. Then the hero goes off on a quest through the Night Land, I kid you not, it is 100s of pages of: Walked, Slept, Ate tablets, Drank Water, Saw something, Hid, Fought, Hid again, Slept, I was really tired, Ate ...
It is perhaps one of the most tedious examples of fiction about travel that I have ever seen. I kept reading for page after page after dozens of pages once the hero left the last bastion of humanity, the Great Redoubt, because the tedium of the plot was strangely curious. How could a man write it and expect it to engage readers?
Oh well. I lose.
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.