Reviews May Contain Minor Spoilers

If you're reading a review you should expect to hear some spoilers. I try to keep them to a minimum though.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The House on the Borderland

Night 8
The House on the Borderland (1908) By: William Hope Hodgson

Two men head to Kraighten in rural Ireland for some fishing. On a day off they head to the south and discover a manuscript in a ruined house overlooking a pit. The manuscript details the former occupant's experiences in the house. The occupant first passes out and travels through the cosmos before landing in a circular valley surrounded by mountains: the arena. He encounters man's old gods of death and many others, including a massive Swine-Thing, before being whisked back and awakening on the floor of his home. However, his experience becomes more real when he and his dog are attacked by lesser swine-things in his garden.

The House on the Borderlands achieves a level of cosmic horror that H.P. Lovecraft reached for with his Mi-go, but did not attain. By tying his creatures to mankind's old gods, he gives his 'lost manuscript' a surprising level of validity. He also uses his four characters to great affect, making them both likeable and sensible. He also touches on the temporary affect that each man has and even humanity itself has on the universe.

Our Hero
The Recluse is a stubborn man who purchases the house and, even after witnessing its horrors, falls to its temptations. While it is difficult to tell, at times what forces are acting on him; they weave a pattern both subtle and sinister.

Loyal Observers
Pepper is his faithful pet dog who accompanies him on his missions into the unknown. Pepper has more personality than many well-written characters, and the love and loyalty between the Recluse and his pet is truly heart warming.

The Sister is an old spinster who either cannot see or ignores the strange things occurring around her. Another typical woman of her time, she cooks and cleans and can't handle anything. Yes, that's only three characters, read the novel for the fourth.

Infectious Foe
The Swine-things and their master are trying to take over the Recluse's house. Their purpose and their ties to the house, the arena, and the pit are a mystery. They are abominably frightening detail and serve as creepy antagonists.

Maddening Atmosphere
Cosmic horror is a genre that doesn't have a lot of examples, but this is a fine one. Hodgson renders the Recluse's trip through the universe as both chilling and fascinating. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, the novel, this story takes the reader on a trip to the unknown depths of the universe.

In the End
The end is the worst part of the novel unless you enjoy making up your own ending. It ends much in the vein of bad found footage films or bad apocalyptic novels of the 1900s, e.g. it doesn't end.

The ending does diminish some of the joy of reading it all the way through. It might be more fulfilling to stop in chapter 22 or 24 then skip to chapter 27. This is worth reading if you enjoy surreal cosmic horror, though if you like good endings stay away from this one.
7/10 (ignoring the ending it would have been an 8/10)

Check it out for free on Project Gutenberg and Kindle.

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