Despite being set in an alternate future, The Sound of His Horn is fantasy, not science fiction. The predominant emotion is fear, the fear experienced by hunted prey. There is a nightmarish feeling to the story, created by the dark woods, the gigantic and barbaric Master Forester, the mythic hunt, the savage cat-women and boar-hounds, the naked youths bred or trained for amusement, and the devaluation of human life. Although there are some scientific advances in this future world— the Bohlen Rays, textiles, and animal and human breeding—the Master Forester’s estate is distinctly medieval in appearance, costume, weapons, and amusements. The terrors arise not from the science and technology but from darker instincts manifested by the count’s sadistic behavior and awakened in turn in his victims.
Sarban is the pseudonym of the British career diplomat John W. Wall. The name comes from a Persian word for a storyteller who traveled with caravans. Under this pseudonym, Wall published only three books of fiction, all of them fantastic in nature. The other two are collections, published immediately before and after The Sound of His Horn: Ringstones, and Other Curious Tales (1951) and The Dollmaker, and Other Tales of the Uncanny (1953).
The Sound of His Horn (the title comes from “John Peel,” the English hunting song) is the longest of Sarban’s fictions, yet it is scarcely more than a novella....
(The entire section is 382 words.)
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