by William Hope Hodgson
Publisher: Penguin Classics, 2008.
Willam Hope Hodgson was a remarkable character who was one of the fathers of the Weird Tales generation of the early 20th Century. His literary legacy is large and varied but The House On The Borderland is generally acknowledged as one of his finest works. It’s certainly one of the strangest.
The book, for the most part, takes the form of a manuscript found in the ruins of an ancient house. The manuscript’s author reveal the incidents leading up to the houses ruination. And so follows a book of two distinct part. In the first a fairly straight forward Gothic horror with strange swine faced monsters but this eventually mutates into the bizarre head trip through space as the narrator explains how he travelled through time and space, literally to the ends of the earth.
It’s clear to see how this vision of cosmic horror amidst distant nebulae influenced the likes of H.P. Lovecraft but at the same time the roots of this book in the Gothic tradition are also clear. What we are reading here is nothing less than the evolution of the Horror novel.
The pace and tension in the first part of the book are remarkable given it’s age. This is a book that reads well despite it passing it’s 101st birthday recently. The second part is more difficult. It’s remarkable in many ways for the sheer vision. It’s like a cross between the Wizard of Oz and the ending of 2001 but it’s perhaps just a bit too long.
All in all though this is a true classic not only was it a pioneering book at the time but it remains a valid and enjoyable read today. Despite all the gore which has immunised us over the years, all the repetitive plots and tropes, this book still manages to stand out as a visionary masterpiece.
Rating 4 out of 5