"Radium Age" science fiction novel with new intro by Erik Davis: The Night Land

Our friend Joshua Glenn, publisher of HiLoBooks says, "I'm thrilled to announce that the HiLoBooks edition of William Hope Hodgson's 1912 dying-earth novel The Night Land, with an introduction by Erik Davis, is available in bookstores and via Amazon. 'One of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination ever written,' claimed H.P. Lovecraft, in 1927; China Miéville agrees, in his 2013 blurb for HiLoBooks: 'A mutant vision like nothing else there has ever been.'"

In the far future, an unnamed narrator, who along with what remains of the human race, dwells uneasily in an underground fortress-city surrounded by brooding, chaotic, relentless Watching Things, Silent Ones, Hounds, Giants, "Ab-humans," Brutes, and enormous slugs and spiders, follows a telepathic distress signal into the unfathomable darkness.

The Earth's surface is frozen, and what's worse — at some point in the distant past, overreaching scientists breached "the Barrier of Life" that separates our dimension from one populated by "monstrosities and Forces" who have sought humankind's destruction ever since. Armed only with a lightsaber-esque weapon called a Diskos, and fortified only by his sense of Honor, our hero braves every sort of terror en route to rescue a woman he loves but has never met.

Hodgson wrote in an archaic style that adds to the story's ever-mounting sense of uncanny anxiety. HiLoBooks' edition of his novel omits two sections which have until now prevented it from reaching a wider audience: the tale's romantic prefatory conceit and its lengthy, relatively uneventful dénouement. Our otherwise unabridged version begins and ends with the most dramatic moments in this epic tale: chapters Two and Eleven.

The Night Land


  1. Many works of fiction are improved by removing the opening exposition. Roger Zelazny claimed that this was one of his great breakthroughs in becoming a successful writer – pretty much starting the story in the middle and letting the reader puzzle things out as it went along.

  2. The Night Land was an awesome concept though Hodgson was very much a man of his time when it came to portraying men and women.  It works best if you skip through the dialogue and the sexist language and focus on the “monstrosities and forces”

  3. I started this awhile back, and have been meaning to get back into it.   The House on the Borderland is a stone-cold weird classic.  I don’t really agree with abbreviating it, though – the prelude was a pretty brisk read, and it wasn’t the worst damn thing I’ve ever read.  I think with a writer like Hodgson, you have to take the whole package – he was an imperfect visionary.  Personally, if a book is worth reading at all, I’d prefer to decide for myself if certain parts of it are superfluous or not – unless the author themselves have specifically recanted those parts.  Hodgson’s books were collected back in the 1970s as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, a really amazing selection of lesser known fantasy titles, imo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballantine_Adult_Fantasy_series

    1. House on the Borderland was great, in my opinion, up until the trippy end, which felt really unsatisfactory. I suspect I would prefer this version of The Night Land, but I guess I could just as easily read the Gutenberg edition linked below, and not read the “offending” chapters.

      Of course, this being a public domain book and given recent trends there’s nothing preventing any of us taking the existing text and adding a regency romance to it. Well nothing preventing us, except respect for the original work. 

  4. Of course, this being Boing Boing and all, it must be mentioned that this book is in the public domain and can be downloaded for free from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10662

  5. I’ve read The Night Land SO MANY TIMES–and I’m so excited to see this beautiful new edition being released (sans the godawful frame narrative which never really had anything to do with the story anyway). The Night Land was a HUGE influence on my appreciation of the weird, the cosmic, and the utterly strange when I was young.

  6.  Perhaps the casual reader should be warned.
    The Night Land is written in Sir Walter Scott-esque diction.
    It is highly repetitive, reminiscent of Shackleton’s diary as rewritten by Sir Walter Scott.
    The most abrasive aspect (for a modern reader who is not a hard core geek) is the narrator’s sexism.
    Granted all these, The Night Land is still an ur-text of fantasy/horror and of Dying Earth SF (up there with H. G. Wells’ “The Time Machine”) and worth reading for these reasons alone (certain chapters of Lord of the Rings will never seem the same again). I’m just warning you.
    A better introduction to Hodgson’s future world is the recent retelling by John Stoddard, or the recent story “Awake in the Night” by John C. Wright.

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