Monday, June 16, 2014

The House On The Borderland!


I've long wanted to read William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland, and at long last I have done it. The title of this story is fantastically evocative, one of the best in all of fantastic fiction. But the story beneath that title is not exactly what I was expecting.

The story is set up in a wonderful frame, when two fisherman discover a diary in a ruins of a weird house in Ireland. The diary tells of an old man called only "The Recluse" who along with his aged sister and his loyal dog Pepper find themselves quite literally living on the edge. The house they have chosen to live in is apparently perched on the cusp of at least two dimensions which allow the Recluse to see another quite peculiar world inhabited by some ferocious pig-headed humanoids among other things. Eventually the narrative shifts from the conflict between the man and the creatures and we go on an extended tour of the far-flung future where the not only is the man's world diminished but the very sun itself cools.

I had to admit I had to make myself keep on going through it. The early parts of the story when the Recluse and his sister are under attack it's a wonderfully vivid creepy tale, but the latter part when he goes on his excursion into the distant future, the yarn begins to lose momentum.

The later section was clearly inspired by H.G.Wells and his seminal The Time Machine, but I was also put in mind of Olaf Stapledon's sprawling epics.

You should read The House on the Borderland, but be ready to shift gears. I still love the title.

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6 comments:

  1. I loved this book. I'd read Hodgson's The Night Land, and was blown away by how unusual it was, how odd and stilted the writing style was. That's why The House on the Borderland caught me totally by surprise; Hodgson's writing style is totally different in it than it was in The Night Land. HotB has an almost Dunsanian feel to it, the writing fluid and graceful. It astonished me that Hodgson could create and maintain such distinct narrative voices between his works.

    The time travel portion of the book enthralled me, even more than in Wells' book, which it obviously was influenced by. It's a dreamy, evocative sequence.

    I'll mention a SPOILER here, so for those who haven't read it, be warned: I got a chill down my spine when it hit me late in the book: the protagonist is almost certainly completely insane, suffering from massive hallucinations. His sister's actions - hiding from him at every opportunity, seemingly terrified of him, but not really of anything else going on - suddenly made perfect sense: all she saw was her brother running around the house, shooting randomly, screaming, and acting completely off his rocker. To me, the book was written from the point of view of an insane man. It left me unsettled and wondering just exactly what I had read, what it meant. Brilliant book. I'm happy to see someone else talking about it.

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    1. I love that analysis. I'll have to give it another read from that perspective. I never thought of that. Thanks.

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  2. I first heard of this about a year ago - there was a version of it on BBC radio, either a drama or somebody reading the book aloud. I wasn't really paying much attention but I wish I had now.

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    1. I'd love to hear that version.

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  3. There's an interesting Richard Corben adaptation out there, though he took some liberties as usual.

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    1. I've seen that one. I didn't want to read it until I'd finished the novel. Perhaps now's the time.

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