Dover Book

Text Box with description of Book

    This is the eleventh of the thirteen "Dover Doomsday Classics" I have read, so I have two more to go at this writing, here in January, 2023. All in all, I have not been that impressed with them. There was one I loved, and a couple more I liked very much. A couple others were quite good, and several were quite bad. But this one! OMG, it was one of the worst books I have ever read in my life. Now, having said that, there are almost no books I'e read that I have not found good points also, and unfortunately, this one had the makings of a really great novel. But Hodgson truly screwed it up. Nothing like this would EVER get published in 2023. Since this book deals with multidimensional lives, it is a pity one of our editors could not have slipped back in time and helped this guy out.
    I checked out the Good Readers at Goodreads, and they were sharply divided. They either liked it or hated it, and I cannot imagine anyone struggling through it and actually thinking it was good. Sadly, all those who hated it also had the same opinion as I, that it could have been a very good novel, and I will get into that more in a bit.
    But first, here are the things I really liked. First, I have been complaining for a long time that science-fiction writers never write about spiritual evolution, but this one did! The last remaining members of the human race are able to communicate over a distance using their "brain-elements" and work with their minds and spirits as part of their way of life. If they are going to be in a situation where they may come in contact with an Evil Force, they have a capsule implanted under their skin to bite before they die which will save their spirit. They were more concerned about saving their spirits than their bodies. They are a basically loving and caring race of people, surrounded by "Monsters" and those Evil Forces, yet they do not want to kill, they just want to be in peace. I also liked the idea that the narrator and his true love have travelled across millions (or perhaps billions) of years and reincarnated at the same time so they could be together. The narrator has a gift no one else has and can remember both lives, and seems to be living in them at the same time, although he does not return to the present at the end.
    The millions of people who live in the Pyramid, or Great Redoubt are the last human survivors on Earth, at least they think they are until something happens. The sun has burned out, and they survive on the Earth-Current which circulates the Pyramid, and protects them. They have dug hundreds of miles below the Pyramid, also which is where they farm and have beautiful gardens and the cemetery. What we do not know at first, but find when the narrator takes off on his journey, is that they are living in a valley caused when the Earth split, which is why they have not frozen to death, because there are fires that are burning down there. In any case, lots of stuff here to make it interesting.
    But the really bad, dreadful part comes next. The entire novel is written not only in the first person, but in the form of a journal, or the narrator telling the story after it happened, so we really never get to hear any other character speak. Everything is communicated in the narrator's voice and how he perceives it. Incidentally, I do not own this Dover edition. Thank goodness I never wasted my money on it, because it is free at Project Gutenberg.
    But that's not the worst. It is written in this painful and contrived language. Some of the Goodreads people thought he was trying to imitate 17th century writing, but I disagree. I read lots of books from all different eras, and I have never read anything like this. It almost sounds like he is imitating Biblical language. Badly. But the point is, a good editor would have not allowed such nonsense, because all it does is make the story dreary. Agonizing almost. Even those at Goodreads who liked it mentioned the language. Why did Hodgson do it? Was he trying to create a more "spiritual" language? The Dover edition is 432 pages. It could have, should have been pared down to 200 or less, written in normal language. Did he think that people in the far, far future would talk like that? On the contrary. Language is becoming more simple. Lots of people today have such a short attention span that they can barely hold a conversation at all. I notice that all the time, that is, if you can get their faces out of their dumb-phones. People speak in slang, in dialect, in sound bytes, and there are futuristic novels where people do not speak at all but communicate through their minds, such as H.G. Wells' Men Like Gods. I see that as more probable, that advanced races would communicate with energy and the mind, as these characters in fact did.
    In any case, it was tolerable at first, because there was material of interest, as he described the Pyramid and their way of life, and the surrounding land beyond the Pyramid with all the mysterious beings out there, mostly Evil or dangerous Monsters. But there is also a Good Force that steps in and protects those in danger, especially if they are more spiritually tuned in. I liked all that part.
    And I also have to point out that I've read a couple of Hodgson's short stories, and the ooey-gooey monster things don't scare me at all, in fact, I find them a bit silly. Monsters are most terrifying when there is a psychological element along with them, such as Dracula. Many people don't realize what an erotic novel that is, and that is what makes is so disturbing. Hodgson throws in monsters everywhere, when he should have created a type and described its activities. Such as the Humpt men, which was a scary part of the story, and the Giant Slugs. There were others he should have elaborated upon, which would have made them more real and scary.
    But, and here it comes, the very worst part of this story, and it took up hundreds of pages, was the journey to the other Redoubt, which they discover is calling for help, and that is where the narrator's (we don't know his name) love from millions of years ago, lives, so he goes to save her. So we travel along this seemingly endless journey, and he is not even sure where he is going, getting to hear that he has eaten his tablets and drank his water every six hours or so. We get a report on all his activities, how many hours he sleeps, etc., etc. yawn, etc.. Fortunately we do not hear about when he takes a piss, but maybe people in the future have eliminated that . . . .
    Finally, finally he sees the other Pyramid, but it is dark. He realizes there is someone in the bushes, and it is Naani, or as he refers to her, "Mine Own Maid." (In the "present," her name was Lady Mirdath, and she died in childbirth.) Well, you would think things would get more interesting, but she turns out to be a ditzy airhead, and he often resorts to flogging her, once with a branch off a tree, because HE is her Master, and must teach her to behave! WTF?? If he lived here, now, he'd be looking at jail time, and I'l bet there's some women now that could whup his ass for being such a dick. Plus, OMG! Is THAT what Hodgson thought of women? The point is, the whole character—the whole theme of the story falls apart. Here we have this couple who loved each other so much that they travelled across millions of years to be together again. And the man risks life and limb going to who-knows-where to find her, only knowing that another Redoubt is somewhere. Then he flogs her, with a tree branch!!?? Plus, he is dressed in armor—a sort of futuristic knight. Now, I read a lot of books from the Medieval period, or set in it, and knights in shining armor is one of my favorite subjects. But, em, didn't knights take a vow to protect "damsels in distress?" NOT beat them up!!
    So what remains of the flow of the story totally falls apart here, taken up with her "naughtiness." And their kissing. They kiss and kiss and kiss, like every other paragraph. And he goes on and on about how he is big and strong and she is so tiny. Both of her little fists fit in the palm of his hand. Really? Is she, like five years old? A midget? Leprechaun? Anorexic? So here they are stuck in this horrendous land of nowhere, trying to get back to the Great Redoubt without getting killed while they still have food tablets and water, and she purposely leaves her footwear behind, then tells him after they have gone a mile, because she thinks it's funny, which, again, completely destroys any power that the story had to begin with. It turns instead into a tale of a childish brat who is totally clueless of the immense danger they face and the fact that she would be dead like all the others from the Lesser Redoubt, if he had not rescued her. OMG! WHY would any author WRITE such rubbish? Why would any publisher publish it? And yet, it got raving reviews from well-known sci-fi writers like H.P. Lovecraft. What, like, were they in a mutual admiration society—I'll praise your book if you praise mine? Or was bribery or even blackmail involved?
    Here is the Wikipedia page for the book, and here is the Goodreads page. Rather than say any more about the story, I will first supply you with some commentary from the Goodreads page, then some quotes from the novel. J.G. Keely says this:

At first, I thought it no wonder Lovecraft declared this a must read for any scholar or writer of Supernatural Horror—it's a great premise, not quite like anything before, with clear potential for unexpected moments, high tension, a depiction of the ultimate struggle of mankind to survive—and Hodgson squanders all of it. Everything about this book seems designed to work against the story, to undermine it, to remove any thrill or tension or genuine human sentiment.

    I could have included almost every paragraph here, as I agree with his entire long review, however I must include his final paragraph.

The book is odiously stupid, just a constant test of the reader' patience. Yet, it's not stupid like most books, which are simply cliché and badly written by accident of the author's lack of skill—this book is terrible because of a series of increasingly stupid and pointless decisions, all despite the fact that it's conceptually interesting and inventive. By all rights, this book should have been worth reading, but it simply fails to be, at almost every turn.

    And Rebecca Gransden says:

It shocked me how quickly this turned from an imaginative fantastical world of wonder to a tedious drudge in the company of a messed up knight with issues and his drippy girlfriend. The misogyny on show is just awful and cannot be excused by saying it was of its time. And even if that is disregarded there is not enough to sustain the narrative for even a half of the length of the novel.

    And Simon says this:

Rarely is the reader able to feel that they are put into the story, instead is constantly reminded that they are reading about the story after the event. The tediousness of his journey is exacerbated by the constant dwelling on the daily routines of walking, sleeping, drinking water and pill popping. And on his return journey, the narrative becomes dominated by the childish behaviour of two love-sick "teenagers" in which they are constantly smiling at each other, kissing, teasing and upsetting each other. Remember, there's no dialogue. Just when I was looking forward to relieving the monotony of the first half with another character for protagonist to interact with, I found that it was instead replaced by something even more infuriating.

    In all unfairness, I did NOT include anyone' commentary who actually liked the book, because I just couldn't fathom that actual human people wrote them. Incidentally, those who did NOT like it often mentioned that they stuck with it because they had read The House on the Borderland, also by Hodgson, and it was such a good book. I agree with that, too, and you can read my review by clicking the link. That novel was everything this one should have been!
    OK, so next, here are some quotes from the book. The beginning, in which there were in present time (17th century?), was very brief, so I will only include the moment of her death. It was not weird, by the way, but his girlfriend was still a bit flaky. However, he treated her with utmost care. Just one other point I want to mention: when he was in the future, most of the people did not believe a "sun" really existed, and thought it was just a myth, but of course, he knows it was real.

And suddenly, Mirdath My Beautiful One, spoke,—whispering something. And I stooped gently to hark; and Mine Own spoke again; and lo! it was to call me by the olden Love Name that had been mine through all the utter lovely months of our togetherness.

And I began again to tell her of my love, that should pass beyond death; and lo! in that one moment of time, the light went out of her eyes; and My Beautiful One lay dead in mine arms . . . My Beautiful One . . . .

    So that is really romantic, and the start of an excellent novel! It is after that, that he begins to have dreams of existing in the future. Then he finds himself really there.

To me, in this last time of my visions, of which I would tell, it was not as if I dreamed; but, as it were, that I waked there into the dark, in the future of this world. And the sun had died; and for me thus newly waked into that Future, to look back upon this, our Present Age, was to look back into dreams that my soul knew to be of reality; but which to those newly-seeing eyes of mine, appeared but as a far vision, strangely hallowed with peacefulness and light.

    The thing is, he has a gift that no one else has, and can remember both lifetimes. He then continues to describe their surroundings, and tells a great deal about the Great Redoubt, the Pyramid in which they all live, which is miles high and even deeper underground. He is seventeen when he finds himself in the future, an orphan, but nurtured by the Master Monstruwacan who is like a father to him. These are the ones who constantly are on guard and surveying the land around for danger. When the narrator reaches his maturity, he is given a high position in the Tower of Observation, due to his unusual gifts, and his high sense of responsibility and wisdom. They have some technology that does not resemble anything we have now. They have a spyglass that can see a great distance. Here is a description of one of his views of the land from the Pyramid. These "Watching Things" seem to never move, or even be alive, and I wondered if they were just mountains, from the description, and since the people in the Pyramid hardly ever wandered outside, they would never really know.

I mind me now that presently I stepped upon the central travelling-roadway which spanned the one thousandth plateau of the Great Redoubt. And this lay six miles and thirty fathoms above the Plain of the Night Land, and was somewhat of a great mile or more across. And so, in a few minutes, I was at the South-Eastern wall, and looking out through The Great Embrasure towards the Three Silver-fire Holes, that shone before the Thing That Nods, away down, far in the South-East. Southward of this, but nearer, there rose the vast bulk of the South-East Watcher—The Watching Thing of the South-East. And to the right and to the left of the squat monster burned the Torches; maybe half-a-mile upon each side; yet sufficient light they threw to show the lumbered-forward head of the never-sleeping Brute.

    In any case, he begins to hear a distress call, and soon realizes that it reminds him of his beloved back in Present Time. They begin to communicate, and he realizes there is another Redoubt, but it has lost its Earth-Current, and there is nothing to protect it, so the inhabitants—not very many people—are all doomed without assistance. The people of the Redoubt are excited, and a rebel group of youths take off to find them, defying many strict laws, though it was meant as heroic. In the end, a prepared group of men take off to rescue them, but all the youths die, and many of the rescuers, too.
    It is after that, that the narrator knows he must find his lost love, who now is called Naani. But he goes through the proper training and preparation, and the entire Redoubt population is anxious and excited. Unfortunately, here is where it all goes downhill. He is loaded up with food tablets, a power that turns to water in contact with air, and a Diskos, a weapon that has some sort of sentience and is tied to its owner. It has a spinning disk that can slice Monsters in half. But the most scary entities were the disembodied Evil Ones that kill the spirit. Here are some quotes:

And it was well acknowledged within the Great Redoubt, that none might touch the Diskos of another; for that the thing went crustily, as it might be said, in the hands of a stranger; and if any made foolishness of this knowledge, and did persist much to such an handling, or making to use, the same would presently act clumsy with the weapon, and come to an hurt; and this was a sure thing, and had been known maybe an hundred thousand years; or perchance a greater time.
And I sat me down in a little clear place among the bushes, and did eat three of the tablets, and did once more shake forth the dust that did turn in the air to a natural water by a proper and natural chemistry of these matters. And after I had eat, I sat a little while, and did think, and did look upwards at the great slope of the Pyramid in the night; and all the time did I listen with mine ears and with my spirit; and kept the Diskos across my knees, and looked this way and that, very frequent; but nothing came anigh.

    As mentioned above, we get to hear about every time his sits down to eat or sleep. For hundreds of pages. Here is part of his encounter with some Monsters.

And I made to draw back, and win unto safety, if indeed this thing were to be done. And as I moved me, it may be that I shook a little earth into the hollow; for there was, indeed, a little sifting of dry dust below me, as I did wot, being very keen to hear, by reason of my fright. And immediately did those three monstrous men look upward, and did seem to me to stare into mine eyes, as I did lie there hid amid the moss-bushes. And I was so put in fear that I did clumsily, and sent another siftering of dust downward, as I did strive to go backward swift and quiet from the edge. And all the time I did look through the bushes very fixedly into the eyes of the giants; and lo, their eyes did shine red and green, like to the eyes of animals. And there rose up a roar from them that did nigh slay my soul with the horridness of the noise. And at that roaring, all the giants that did lie in the holes did awake, and began to come outward into the hollow.

    Here he kills the Yellow Thing.

Now, I had done this thing with a wondrous quickness; so that I was under the mighty arching of the legs before the Yellow Thing did wot of my intent. And the body was bristled with the great hairs, and poison did seem to come from them, and to ooze from them strangely in great and shining drops. And the Monster heaved itself up to one side, that it might bring certain of the legs inward to grasp me; yet in that moment did I smite utter fierce with the Diskos—thrusting. And the Diskos did spin, and hum, and roar, and sent out a wondrous blaze of flame, as that it had been a devouring Death; and it sundered the body of the Yellow Thing, and did seem as that it screamed to rage amid the entrails thereof; so wondrous was the fury and energy of that trusted Weapon.

    OK, so that's how the journey goes, as he discovers new places, like the Gorge, where there is enough light from the fires to be able to see, and even feel warm, and some bodies of water and a little island. Now, let us skip ahead to his rescue of Naani, the only survivor from the attack upon the Lesser Redoubt. She has been wandering about for some time, her clothing in tatters and nearly starved to death. Incidentally, only humans can say the Master-Word, which is how they can tell if their telepathic messages are being hacked.

And by this thing, she had known that her death was surely nigh; and lo! out of all the night of the world had come the beat of the Master-Word, strong and powerful, beating as a low and spiritual thunder out of all the dark of the night. Yet had she thought of me, only as speaking from the far-off Mighty Pyramid; so that the cry had brought naught of hope unto her, but only a newer and more known despair. And, behold, in a little minute, there had come her name, spoken surely with the tongue; and a name that was different from the name that my spirit had said after the beat of the Word. And immediately, I had come out of the bush, and she had fallen back in a sudden great fear that a monster was stolen upon her; and then did see a young man in grey armour, and did know in one instant that I was that olden one of her memory dreams, and the one that had spoken unto her in the spirit across half of the dead world, as it did seem. And now was I come through all that unknown desolation and affright, to succour her. And she was immediately safe; but yet all broken because of her weakness and her utter joy and her sweet honour for me.

    But with the food tablets, drink and rest, she soon begins to recover her strength.

And when she saw me move in the half-light, she gave out a little word of joy, that I did be again to knowledge of her; and she came over, and put her arms about my neck, and kist me very loving, thrice upon the lips. And, in verity, it came to me in that moment that I had been kist a while gone in my dreams, but scarce to know it; yet I perceived now that Mine Own had taken a naughty advantaging of my slumber, that she kiss me to her own pleasure; yet did the Maid say no word of her naughtiness; and I to be likewise; but to resolve that I waken, mayhaps, on the next time, and so catch her in her sweet and secret delight of me.

    They spend several days going through the dark stinky crack in the gorge where the Giant Slugs live, and finally emerge with the serious need to bathe. Unfortunately, there is a serpent in the water . . . .

And in the end of the two hours that we did go, there was come the end of the dark part of the Gorge; and we to be outward of that mighty roof of the mountains, as I do think it to have been; and the air to be free of the stink of the Monsters, and the fire-holes to be very plenty, and their smokings to go upward very proper; so that we had no more the bitterness of their fumings in our throats.
And surely, I stoopt and kist her, as she did look so wistful in her little puzzlement; and immediately I removed her trouble very natural, and told that I should stand guard anigh to her, the while that she bathed. And, truly she did be at ease on the moment, and mayhap something surprised to know wherefore she had been something a-lack to ask me. But, in truth, it did be very natural.

    Then it starts to get weird. They are constantly kissing each other's body parts. Like, every paragraph. Possibly sadomasochists. Gag me with a spoon. Just get home and be done with it . . . .

And Naani, as I do think, to have loved the chafe of that rough garment for love's sake, and to go very humble and loving, as I lookt at her; but in verity to be never gone from the sweet naughtiness that did be alway in her heart, and to plan even in that moment some new and secret service unto me, that should be for her quiet joy, and to be hid from me, until that my wit should come upon it to uncover it. And in verity a young man doth want that he whip his maid and kiss her, and all in the one moment. And, indeed, he to have delight in both.
And she was heedful then that she turned the garments upon the hot rock; and afterward did attend to my bruisings. And when she did rest, I lookt to her pretty feet, and rubbed them very gentle and constant with the ointment; and surely they did be pretty well; but I to like that I should tend them, and to have joy to feel their littleness within my palms, and surely she did know how it did be with me; for presently she took her feet inward under the cloak; and I, maybe, to look something woeful; for she put one out presently, when that I did the least expect, and slipt it very cosy into my hand; and surely I kist her naughty toes; and she then to be very sedate.
And when I was full armed, she took my hand, and set mine arm about her waist, and she leaned her head against my breast, and put up her lips to be kist, as that she did be a child maiden; yet when I kist her, she did be a woman, and to kiss me very dear and loving, and to look at me then from under her eye-lids; and sudden to make a dainty growling, and to pretend that she did be a fierce thing that should be like to eat me; and I to be utter feared, as you shall think, and to be scarce able that I kiss Mine Own Pretty Fierce One, because that I did laugh so hearty, and to be so taken with a surprise that the Maid did show this new playfulness; and in the same moment to be stirred and waked anew that she did be so lovely and graceful in mine arms, and to make her naughty growling so pretty that I did be eager that she make it again; but she to do this playing only as her mood did stir her.

    And there I will stop because it goes on. And on and on, ad nauseum. One Goodreads reviewer said there is an abridged version of this story but unfortunately that wasn't the one they were reading.
     William Hope Hodgson was born in Essex, England in 1877 and died at the early age of 40 in Belgium, 1918. This book was written in 1912, his fourth and last major novel, but he wrote a great many short stories, several short story collections, poems and other works, so he accomplished a lot in his short lifetime.
    Anyways, there it is. Am I glad I read it? Of course! It is part of the Dover Doomsday Classics, and the project is to read them all. There would be something wrong with my critical thinking if I loved every book I read. Plus, I only need one more book to fulfil my criteria to do an Index Page for William Hope Hodgson. Project Gutenberg has several other books by him, which I already have downloaded, so hopefully they will be as good as The House on the Borderland, and not as bad as this one!

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