The Night Lands

nighthoundsThe Night Land is one of my favorite books. Written by William Hope Hodgson and published in 1912, it is a post-apocalyptic view of the far future, when mankind holds only the Last Redoubt and the world is full of Cyclopean and eldritch monsters. Even better, you can read it for free at The Gutenberg Project. Most of my favorite fiction is post-apocalyptic, and The Night Land is the grand-daddy of them all.

Hodgson had other books. The House on the Borderlands was one that hasn’t aged well, although Richard Corben’s graphic novel did bring me back to it briefly.

Another one I do love is Boats of the “Glen Carrig,” (1907) also available on Gutenberg. It is placed in 1757, but it feels a lot like The Night Land to me.

I just read that Greg Bear’s City at the End of Time (2008) is an homage to The Night Land. Guess I’m going to have to read it! Other books in the “end of time” tradition that are worth a read are:

Clark Ashton Smith’s “Zothique” stories from the 1930s
Arthur C. Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night (1948), later rewritten as The City and the Stars (1956)
Jack Vance, The Dying Earth (1950)
Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (1950)
Andre Norton, Daybreak 2250 (1952), also called Star Man’s Son
Clifford D. Simak’s City (1952)
Richard Matheson’s I am Legend (1954)
Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley (1967)
Michael G. Coney’s The Hero of Downways (1974)

Of course, there is the Fallout video game series, the table top RPG Gamma World (1978) and its For the world is hollow, and I have touched the skypredecessor Metamorphosis Alpha (1976), and now the Adventure Time (2010) cartoon series. All post-apocalyptic fantasies. I guess the reason I love this genre is that at the end of time, technology is both ancient and so developed it is essentially magic. Medieval fantasies are often insipid, but when it is in the far future, I somehow find it more palatable. The Night Land is spectacular for this because it is written in a archaic form, and because the technological artifacts used are still bizarre to us because they are not what we expect any more. So there’s a few other books I should mention that probably give a similar feel, even if they are aren’t at the end of time.

Brian Aldiss, Non-stop (1958), later renamed Starship
Samuel Delany’s Nova (1968)


About lostdelights

An old gamer flying his freak flag, I've been playing table-top role-playing games since 1978. I've been building my own system (Journeyman) since 1981.
This entry was posted in Art, Gamma World, Science Fiction, Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Night Lands

  1. I love The Night Land as well. It’s such an amazing epic story. Incidentally, I came across your post while I was looking for pictures for my own post about the book. 🙂

  2. Chamjari says:

    I read The Night Land last year. It was a bit of a slog with the constant and lengthy descriptions of food pill eating and contemplations upon his beloved, but the craziness of The House of Silence, the fight with the humped men, the four armed yellow vampire, the whirling tree stump thing, the giant snake eating slugs made it all worth while and stimulating. I also love C.L. Smith and Jack Vance. I just read ‘The Immortals of Mercury’ by Smith and about to read The Demon Princes vol. 2.

    Don’t forget the post apocalyptic world of Thundar the Barbarian

    • lostdelights says:

      Demon Dogs! How could I forget Thundarr? Loved it and loved Jack Kirby’s influence. If you liked that, you should look at Kirby’s work on the Marvel comic series, “Kamandi: Last Boy on Earth” from the 1970s. Good stuff! Haven’t read Immortals of Mercury – I’ll give that a try. The Demon Prince series was great. Also check out E.C. Tubb’s Dumarest saga. Over 30 volumes there, so it should keep you busy. 🙂

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