The Night Land
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
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The first chapters establish the love of a boy and girl in 1800s England.
There is a tragic end to their lives, but not their love. The depth of
that love is establish as eternal and has surfaced from times past
and will live again in future lives.
The scene changes to a time in the far distant future. A time when the
Earth has undergone vast changes and humanity resides in, two enormous
man-made pyramid structures. The inhabitants of each, having only an
ancient rumor of the others existence..
The Earth is dark, having lost the influence of the Sun many thousands
of years previous. All that lives, owes it's existence to the heat and magnetism within the Earth. The Pyramid dwellers know it as the Earth Current. As long as it lasts, the Earth may survive.
Through a telepathic message from the lesser-pyramid, a boy in the greater-pyramid gains proof of the existence of the second pyramid and it's messenger, Meridith, his love of long ago and always.
The lesser-pyramid has not fared well, since a decline in the Earth Current there, has made the people susceptible to the evil influences from outside. The boy decides to set out to save those inhabitants and the girl, that in this life, is the love of all his lives .
The journey is perilous. Some have previously ventured out of the safety of the Pyramid, but few have returned from the dangers and evils of that sunless world outside. On his journey, he must face and best:
o The Giant Watchers at the four corners of the compass. They sit motionless
waiting for the time they can conquer the Pyramid when the earth Current dies.
o The Grey men, serpents, poisonous pools, fire pits, poison gasses and other wild beasts.
o The House of Silence, that ghostly house that must be passed and will lure any to their death by Occult powers
o The Giant slugs that live in the rift in the Earth that must be traversed.
o The Beast Men. Savage wild men that know only how to kill.
On his side he has one marvelous hand weapon, an armored suit, his wit and his love, with with to conquer, The Night Land.
Don't let the first few chapters or the rather antiquated language in which it is told fool you. It is not a nineteen century love novel, but a story of love reincarnated through thousands of years and that takes place in a futuristic world.
This sci-fi has everything and is one of my favorites.
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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.
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.