(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Night Land is at once William Hope Hodgson’s most daring and most accomplished yet most frustrating novel. It is one of the most idiosyncratic science fantasies ever written. Hodgson regarded it as his greatest work, and although it may not be his most popular, no one can deny its unique qualities.

Critics of the novel have complained that its affected seventeenth century first-person narrative detracts from the novel’s extravagant vision and yet admit that the book remains hypnotic and strangely satisfying. Hodgson’s deployment of archaisms, which at times makes the novel almost unreadable, is clearly important to his purpose. It probably works at several levels. On one level, it displaces the reader, leaving little sense of the mundane to which to relate. This allows Hodgson to sensitize the reader to the Night Land itself. Hodgson had used archaisms before, particularly in The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” (1907), and clearly believed that the language helped develop the atmosphere of estrangement that he needed. The archaisms are also redolent of the Bible, and it is probable that Hodgson intended to evoke a sense of biblical events, especially those in the Book of Revelation, to convey his own apocalyptic world. Neither of these is enough for Hodgson to have pursued a novel of such length in this way; he must have had some other purpose in mind. The very names Hodgson has created for his monsters and locations suggest a...

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