The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson

The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson
The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson

The novel “The Night Land” by William Hope Hodgson was published for the first time in 1912.

When his wife, Lady Mirdath the Beautiful, dies, her widower falls into a state of great prostration. He loved his wife very much and had a very special connection with her, as they literally shared some very special dreams.

In his state, the man starts having a vision of a very distant future in which the Sun is dead and the last human beings live underground. On that Earth whose surface is inhabited by monstrous creatures, the souls of the two spouses have reunited in new human incarnations. However, the two of them are separated and the man must face the darkness to reunite with his beloved.

“The Night Land” is a novel that can be considered proto-science fiction with strong horror connotations. During an unfortunately short life, William Hope Hodgson wrote several stories that can be defined as horror and in various cases contain elements that today we could consider science fiction. This novel isn’t the first work set in a very distant future, on a dying Earth. However, it can be considered a milestone of that type of story within the science fiction and fantasy genres.

The beginning definitely feels more like a romance novel, as the narrator recounts his love story with Lady Mirdath and her death. The only element of science fiction or fantasy is the fact that both husband and wife seem to have had some very particular dreams. After the woman’s death, for the widower, these dreams acquire such strength that he experiences an incarnation of himself that lives in a distant future.

In that future, most of humanity still existing lives in the Last Redoubt, a colossal pyramid built underground. Leaving it means taking terrible risks because in the darkness there are monstrous creatures of various types lurking. Despite this, the narrator hears the call of his beloved and decides to venture into the darkness to reach her.

Most of the novel recounts the narrator’s quest, as he’s determined to reunite in that distant future with the woman he lost in their previous lives. Honestly, some parts seemed corny to me because the protagonist just pines for his beloved and how he lost her in his present.

The protagonist tries to avoid the creatures that live on the surface but sometimes he has to fight them using the Diskos, the weapon he carries with him, powered by what is called the Earth Current. This is the same energy that allows the survival of humanity underground and one of the novel’s pseudo-scientific elements.

The story of the protagonist’s journey has strong horror tones due to the setting on an Earth’s surface that has become hellish because its inhabitants tend to be ferocious predators. The author describes various creatures, which sometimes are not simple animals but intelligent predators with human ancestors and the result of hybridizations that evolved over time. This is another pseudo-scientific element of the novel.

William Hope Hodgson remained vague in his descriptions of the pseudo-scientific elements, which all in all haven’t aged badly. Instead, the story is strongly influenced by gender stereotypes and the morality of the time in which it was written, especially in the story of certain really stupid behaviors of Lady Mirdath’s future reincarnation, who obviously needs to be saved by the protagonist.

“The Night Land” inspired later generations of science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. Over a century after its publication, it remains one of William Hope Hodgson’s best-known works. Perhaps it remains valid above all as a horror novel but it is also worth reading for those interested in the stories of the dying Earth. It’s available on Amazon USA, UK, and Canada. It’s also available for free on Project Gutenberg’s website.

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