In today’s blog post, we briefly call to your attention a few works of fiction (currently in print) that stand out in our memory as being of high quality, or in the case of The Night Land, we are reading now and can recommend it.
The Night Land, by William Hope Hodgson (1877 – 1918), 419 pages, Dover Publications, ISBN: 978-0-486-79809-7. Available on Amazon or at doverpublications.com
Originally published in 1912, this work does, from its length, require an investment of time by the reader. Hodgson writes in the first person, and although he makes use of some rather archaic phrases, his prose is easy to read. Those interested can read reviews at Amazon.
The setting of the book is in the far future after the death of the sun. The surviving remnant of humanity lives in a colossal, metal pyramid. There are unseen forces that are felt or imagined at the periphery of one’s consciousness. This book is thought of as the first work of modern fantasy to feature a dying Earth. But, the book begins in the first chapter as a love story.
Where is the border between fantasy fiction and science fiction? Some readers may think one or more of these books could fall into both categories.
It is worth noting that in this edition, we see praise for The Night Land from C.S Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft, and Lin Carter. As Lewis puts it, such novels “enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience.”
The House on The Borderland is a haunting and captivating tale of fiction (some say it is a supernatural horror tale, but the book has some elements of science fiction in addition to horror) written in 1908. This earlier work by Hodgson is much shorter at 160 pages in length. This title is now available from Dover Publications, ISBN: 978-0-486-46879-2. (This edition is also sold on Amazon.) The picture below is of the paperback (mass market) copy I purchased in 2002 from a used bookstore.
From the back cover:
“The wanderings of the narrator’s spirit through limitless light-years of cosmic space and kalpas of eternity, and its witnessing of the solar system’s final destruction constitute something almost unique in standard literature” – H. P. Lovecraft
HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND stands perched above an infinite chasm of space-time fated to behold the burning end of the world. The front door remains ajar, for any who dare enter . . .
“A supernatural horror tale of the greatest magnitude of power and intensity.”
Although it is now 16 years since I read this work, some scenes from it still stand out in my memory. Hodgson’s writing is intriguing and this book can be engrossing for the fan of good fiction. Recommended.
Phantastes: A Faerie Romance was published in London in 1905, the year of the author’s death – yet, as we read in the preface, the author’s son tells us that the story, his father’s first prose work, had been previously published nearly fifty years earlier (thus, sometime in the late 1850s). I read this book in 2014, and recall that it was quite an enjoyable read with some moral lessons conveyed in the tale (which was something of a spiritual quest, and an achieving of spiritual and emotional maturity). The black and white illustrations were of good artistic quality. George MacDonald, the author (1824-1905), is considered a mentor of Lewis Carroll.
This softcover book is available from Dover Publications, and is also sold on Amazon.com (make sure you order the edition by Dover, as there are other editions of this book available from other publishers). There are many 5 star reviews for it. The book is 206 pages of reading delight and stimulation of the imagination. ISBN: 978-0-486-44567-0. Highly recommended.
From the back cover:
. . . . Phantastes inspired many of the great Christian and fantasy authors of the twentieth century. A fairy tale for adults, it is the captivating story of a wealthy young man who takes an unplanned journey into a fantastic nether world. Led by an enchanting sprite . . . he meets a diverse cast of characters, among them a fairy queen, as well as sinister figures who threaten his spiritual well-being.
Outstanding for its imaginative characters, vivid action, and subtle yet powerful moral messages, this book . . . earned MacDonald recognition as “The Grandfather of Modern Fantasy” . . . Of this work, C.S, Lewis wrote “it will baptize your imagination.”
A Voyage to Arcturus, by David Lindsay (1876-1945) is also available from Dover Publications and can be purchased on Dover’s website (link above) or on Amazon.com. 258 pages, softcover. ISBN: 978-0-486-44198-6. This work was originally published in London in 1920.
This book was read by me somewhere between the years 2007 and 2011. When you read many books each year, it can become difficult to remember exactly when you read a particular book. The story was interesting, and this book has received high praise. There are elements here of science fiction, combined with fantasy in the story, and it is like an epic journey, at times, perhaps, bordering on being mythic in character. I seem to recall there were short sections that could be interpreted as being not so subtle criticisms of church authorities (back on Earth) but done in an allegorical or metaphorical manner. As well, there were emotionally touching scenes in the story. Recommended.
Perhaps it is best here to just quote the back cover of the book and refer interested readers to customer reviews over on Amazon.com.
From the back cover:
Transported from Earth to a planet in a distant star system, the hero of this remarkable tale explores the beauty and untamed nature of a faraway world. Wild creatures crowd the fantastic landscape, while demented torturers dominate victims with their bizarre mental powers.
Considered by the Irish Times as “one of the most brilliant flights of pure fancy ever recorded,” this amazing story will delight readers who enjoy the fantasy novels of H.G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, and Lord Dunsany. At once an engrossing science-fiction novel and profound metaphysical fable, A Voyage to Arcturus richly deserves its reputation as a work of genius.
All of these books are enjoyable to read and stimulate the reader’s imagination. If you have time (and the interest) to do recreational or pleasure reading, consider obtaining some of these titles. As well. if you know a book lover, or a person who enjoys reading and likes fiction, any of these books would make good gifts for that person. Please note that all of the above books were written for adults, but young adults (high school and older) could read and enjoy them as well. The reading level for each is beyond that of young children.
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