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.
Would you try another book written by William Hope Hodgson or narrated by Drew Ariana?
Yes to both. I have read other work my Hodgson, including "The House on the Borderland" and would be pleased to listen to it again. I think most of his work is better written than "The Night Land".
What was most disappointing about William Hope Hodgson’s story?
The artificial prose style, the repetition, the descriptions that should have been evocative but fell short, the lack of twists or surprises - in short the sheer linearity of the story.
Have you listened to any of Drew Ariana’s other performances? How does this one compare?
Was The Night Land worth the listening time?
Oh yes, especially as I could get on with the laundry, the washing up, the weeding and so on. And there is a diamond of a story in there. Shame it's buries under a mountain of soot.
Any additional comments?
"The Night Land" is an early and highly influential example of Dying Earth fiction. If, like me, you are a fan of the genre and a bit of a completist, it's probably on your "must read" list. However, you might have gathered that reading it is a bit of a trial; H.P. Lovecraft described it as "seriously marred by painful verboseness, repetitiousness, artificial and nauseously sticky romantic sentimentality, and an attempt at archaic language even more grotesque and absurd than that in 'Glen Carrig'."
Aside from not having read "Glen Carrig", I have to agree with Lovecraft in the strongest terms. Regarding the verboseness, bear in mind that it's 200,000 words long, about 600 pages. An abridged version, "The Dream of X", is 20,000 words long, which means that for every 10 words Hodgson wrote, 9 were discarded. This audiobook is unabridged, but once I was halfway through I could see that it should have been cut down even more. The author's vision is wonderfully powerful, but the prose and storytelling are simply dreadful, especially in the second half, and the cod-archaic style reduces the power to evoke. For entire chapters, Hodgson inserts a variant on "truly", "surely" or "in verity" in every single sentence, which becomes very annoying - and anyway, when you highlight EVERYTHING, that's just the same as not have highlighted anything.
Every time the narrator repeats something (which is often) he'll point out the fact to the reader. Indeed, he has no use for such handy devices as saying, "The next few days proceeded in much the same way." There are lengthy homilies on love that would probably make a Twilight fan wince. Despite being in extreme danger, the heroine is driven by her "naughtiness" to engage in risky "pranks". We then have the problem of how to root for a hero who beats the woman he loves.
The reader, Drew Ariana, doesn't have a different voice for each character, because there isn't any dialogue AT ALL. He does manage to convey emotion in places, but frankly, he's got so little to work with, I'm giving him 5 stars for sheer perseverence - he should really be given a medal.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
This must surely be the greatest work of an author who deserves infinitely more recognition than he has actually been afforded. The Night Land is a long story, written in a style which can only be described as weird. And yet, the story is huge in scope, and has elements of horror, great valour, and enduring love. In a world long bereft of the sun, a young man leaves the last refuge of mankind, which is his home, in search of his soul mate, -- the existence of whom he has divined in in a clairvoyant or dream state. He embarks on a journey into the darkness, where terror and destruction stalks at every turn. Our hero, who is un named, takes the reader along with him, sharing each step of the way. The things encountered on his journey are monstrous, and bizarre beyond imagining, and begs indulgence and understanding from the reader. However, if one is patient, a feast of fantasy entertainment is in store for you. One just has to let it flow, and be receptive.
What did you like best about The Night Land? What did you like least?
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."
What was one of the most memorable moments of The Night Land?
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.
Would you be willing to try another one of Drew Ariana’s performances?
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.
Could you see The Night Land being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?
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?
Any additional comments?
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.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
I have never come across a book of this sort. It is essentially a meandering account of one man’s quest to recover a lost love set in an incomprehensible future where the sun has been extinguished. Told in a sing-song prose and using language evocative of Shakespeare it sounds like an epic poem. Personally I did not find this to be a successful attempt at relating a quasi-Science Fiction tale is the format of an Elizabethan love poem. The repetition of many terms takes on the quality of poetic meter at times but to me revealed the lack of imagination of the author in selecting more descriptive words.
The narrator, Drew Ariana, is well suited to this material. He has a quaint accent that is not quite English in character but resonates with the echoes of a past era and is the sole reason that I persevered until the end. In whole, this is a bizarre listening experience that I can find none else with which to compare.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
I can’t add much to what has already been written here. However, I would say that I usually feel a powerful urge to experience an original work before moving to any derivative works. In this case, I have to recommend NOT giving into that urge. If your dead set on reading The Night Land, I suggest getting the one by James Stoddard, “A Story Retold”.
The world Hodgson has constructed is very interesting and seems different from any I’ve yet experienced. He thoroughly ruined that with the anachronistic, repetitive, misogynistic prose. I’d like to emphasize that I don’t toss around the accusation of misogyny lightly. That term is barely in my vocabulary. I resisted the urge to label this story misogynistic for many pages before even I tired of the well-meaning physical abuse and archaic gender roles.
The ending was trite and predictable.
Let me start by saying that William Hope Hodgson is a wonderful writer and builder of worlds... this just isn't his best work. The story could hardly be considered even passably acceptable in today's societal climate, let alone even remotely close to politically correct. It is unfortunately riddled with inextricable misogyny, and this ended up grating on the nerves almost as much as the clumsy use of imitative 18th century prose. I can't fathom for the life of me why Hodgson chose to use that time period as a base for his framing narrative, but the fact that the entire story is told in faux-romance era vernacular makes it a difficult read. In terms of positive merits, Hodgson, as usual, has created an incredible world for the story to unfold in. The utter end-times vibe of everything and feeling of total desolation which pervades the world of the Night Land is very setting of a mood, and excellent for rainy day listening, yet thrilling and engaging if you can get beyond the clunky wordage and teeth grating misogyny. I commend the late author on his world building skills, and the narrator for making the best of the messy prose he was given, but I cannot recommend this book. The atmosphere and world building are not worth the price of admission to what is essentially a galloping Prince Charming style story, told from the POV of said Prince Charming, who is also an insufferable Mary Sue. 2 stars, if only for great narration and atmosphere.
What would have made The Night Land better?
There's no plot, and the style is clumsy. It would need significant editing (like The Dream of X), and more than the single character that exists now.
Would you ever listen to anything by William Hope Hodgson again?
Probably not. There's too many accomplished, artful writers in the world for me to be in the business of giving second chances to a man who squandered 500 pages.
What about Drew Ariana’s performance did you like?
It was articulate, even, and as smooth and responsive as the text allowed. He wasn't given a lot to work with.
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
The book's historical significance is its redemption, and the reason I read it. H.P. Lovecraft has inherited an unearned reputation of having given birth to "cosmic horror" from nothing. In reality, you can see all the best elements of his work in "The Night Land," and "The Gods of Pagana." To the extent anyone's interested in Lovecraft, either of these would be rewarding reads.
Additionally, there's something satisfyingly bleak about the dead world, the "House of Silence," and the Watchers that seem to exist and react along geological time scales.
Any additional comments?
It's impossible to discuss the book without noting, at least in passing, the incredible misogyny animating its internal morality. This is unfortunate. If I remember correctly, there are more uses of the term "maid" than there are pages in the standard publication.
0 of 4 people found this review helpful