Many are the hours in which I have pondered upon the story that is set forth in the following pages. I trust that my instincts are not awry when they prompt me to leave the account in simplicity as it was handed to me.
The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson Review by Nickolas Cook There are classics of the genre and then there are CLASSICS of the genre. "The House on the Borderland" is a CLASSIC. Hodgson uses the plot device of a found tale, as two weekend campers find a crumbling manuscript in the ruins of an ancient house in the woods. Creepy enough already, but when the campers begin to read the lost story of a recluse and his sister it gets even more foreboding. Lovecraft cited this as one of the best horror novels ever written, and it's easy to see why the man who made his name writing 'cosmic horror' would find it such a compelling read. Hodgson is the father of Lovecraft's fears. Hodgson has actually written two separate novels in "The House on the Borderland". The first is by far the most frightening of the two pieces, as swine-like intelligent creatures siege the house and the protagonist must battle them for his life. There is a dream sequence at the beginning that sets up that the house is really more than a simple domicile, is, in fact, a sort of extra-dimensional time and space nexus, something that becomes even more apparent in the second half of the book. Through this dream sequence our protagonist finds that there is a monstrous collection of gods that watch the house and its inhabitants from a vast blank desert field. After his battle with the swine creatures our protagonist descends into the belly of the earth, through a cave in his backyard (which we find later is actually connected to the cellar of the house as well). What he finds there is just as cosmic in its revelations, but he goes no further and barely escapes with his life. Then comes the second part of the book. And this is where it becomes true 'cosmic horror' as the protagonist is given a glimpse of what the far-far future holds for the universe. As he sleeps, he is thrown headlong into the future and must watch as his own body rots away behind him. He sees the death of the sun, and eventually the death of the earth, and the other planets in the Solar System. Finally, he must face that monstrous collection of gods once again and stay sane. By book's end we are left with the impression that the world is an unstable collection of facile life and dust, under the control of some faceless entities that give not a wit for mankind's fate. That's true 'cosmic horror' at its best. Hodgson's other works were hit and miss with readers, and none ever reached the pinnacle of "The House on the Borderland". This is a truly inspiring work, made all the more so as it was written long before Lovecraft, Machen, or Lord Dunsany tried their hands at 'cosmic horror'. This review does come with one caveat: The grammar and style is a bit outdated, and may be a barrier for those unwilling to traverse an age or two of craft. --Nickolas Cook.
A Frightening Vision - And More
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 15 years ago
Other reviewers have given the gist of the story quite well, so I won't recount it here. Let me just say that there is a reason why this story has been so influential to its readers after nearly 100 years, and continues to amaze and shock. It's because it may be true. I say this because the visions described in this book are more than just scary, they are based upon the real descriptions of other planes of consciousness given by real mystic adepts who have penetrated into the unseen creation through the facility of mystic transport. Even modern-day occurrences of the co-mingling of different planes of existence have been documented in places like Findhorn, Scotland (RE: "The Findhorn Garden"). Indian Mystics from time immemorial have told of "sunnas" - vast regions of emptyness and isolation where monumental icons and symbols from Universal Mind manifest as objects and tableaus. They are the "out-lands" of the astral cosmos, like a sand-spit that collects the wreckage of ships and other flotsam and jetsom from the "stream of consciousness" of Eternity. It's an uncomfortable vision of what's beyond this life on Earth that we know. But reality is far stranger than any fiction. This brilliant narrative may just be a glimpse of the true nature of space-time - and how small is a man, indeed, who is confined to the physical body alone. The dated style is authentic for its era, and those who find it objectionable probably won't like this review either. A lot of thought went into this novel, breaching subject matter that is utterly bizarre and alien to most. Those few travelers who fly on the wings of consciousness will smile knowingly at this. I suggest you also read the entire collection of books by Carlos Casteneda, who gives a glimpse of near-earth astral phenomena. A WONDERful and spellbinding book in any sense, I highly recommend it.
best book in weird fiction
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 18 years ago
a man in a house starts to be bothered by some strange beings. he must protect his house, and his sister (who sort of goes in and out of the story). he decides to investigate, and finds that there is more to his house than meets the eye. excellent book. great descriptions, especially of the cosmos and the weird landscape. Hodgson have a way of describing how horrible it is to be utterly helpless while your surrondings are or are changing to something really great, weird and horrible. this is more a story about contact with something outerworldly, than a haunted house story. hodgson's masterpiece.
Why isn't this book more popular? A damn unsettling yarn...
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 19 years ago
This novel derives most of its genuinely creepy effect from all of the unanswered questions that will flow through your brain for days after you read it...who built that damn house? What exactly is it made out of? How is the "Recluse" able to have visions of the far future just by residing in the mansion? Does somebody (or some thing) WANT the protagonist to have these visions? If so, why? What is the significance of the violent, besieging swine-men and how can they exist in the "real world" of the 1900s and billions of years in the future (when the Earth is a frozen and dead sphere in a darkened solar system) at the same time? Who (or what?) created the swine-men? What do the gigantic statues of the ancient and evil mythological gods of Earth legend (Set, Kali, etc.) glimpsed in the "amphitheatre" have to do with the story? Hodgson (to his credit and to incredible effect) never gives the reader obvious answers to these questions in this skillfully crafted tale of terror that makes full use of mankind's fear of the unknown. To be sure, Hodgson knew all of the answers, but he wanted us to have fun (for the rest of our lives, no doubt) trying to figure out exactly what he was getting at. Hodgson was an author of startling originality, and "House..." is far more frightening than any other work penned by any of his contemporaries (Stoker, Wells, James, and numerous others) and it's easy to see why Lovecraft admired him so much...so why don't more horror and sci-fi fans know who he is? I'm clueless, so somebody please fill me in. Lovecraft fans will no doubt notice that Hodgson's "Universal Sun" (as seen in the terrifying visions of the Recluse, as it sends forth "messengers" into the void after all of creation has been destroyed) is the obvious prototype of HPL's Azathoth. This novel left me eagerly looking forward to reading more Hodgson books ("Nightland", "Boats of the Glen Carrig", others). It's a damn shame that he was killed in the First World War, because he would have certainly cranked out more ground-breaking horror classics.
Great book with a moral message, but NOT a horror/thriller!
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 21 years ago
If you are looking for a "horror/thriller" ala Stephen King, this is NOT the book for you! If, however, you are looking for a combination of science fiction-fact with a pretty scary moral message relating to good versus evil (and lots of atmosphere to boot) then this book definitely is THE ticket!!Hodgson wrote this in about 1918, and considering his details about red-giant stars and the probable end of the solar system, the prophetic writing in terms of science-fact is absolutely incredible. But the real points of this book:1) Man's struggle alone versus evil (with little or no help from God) 2) The random nature of misfortune and catastrophe over which we have no real controlAnd in those two statements you discover the disturbing message of this book. Hodgson seems to be saying that there is a place where there is a devil but no God. He also maintains that evil can exist in a "vacuum" where there is no presence of good. Finally, the only "hopeful" message is that we can fight all we like against the perception of evil but our resources in the struggle are severely limited by our human weakness. Whilst making these points Hodgson raises some interesting (but ultimately unanswerable) questions about our perception of time. For example, time is measured by the rotation of our planet - but surely this is an arbitrary standard in a dimension where the space-time continuum no longer applies, for example in a "worm-hole", black hole or white hole. These were interesting concepts for 1918. The only weakness is that Hodgson was possibly borrowing here from ideas put forward by Wells in the "Time Machine". Putting this reservation to one side, the imagination required to write the "end of the solar system" sequence is not only amazing, but surprisingly in-line with modern cosmological theory.(I must make a final confession: I originally read this book when I was thirteen years of age and at the Dunn school in Santa Barbara. No doubt the impression that it made on me then has biased my enthusiasm for this book as I read it today! :-)
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