Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The House on the Borderland

William Hope Hodgson

A manuscript is found: filled with small, precise writing and smelling of pit-water, it tells the story of an old recluse and his strange home - and its even stranger, jade-green double, seen by the recluse on an otherworldly plain where gigantic gods and monsters roam.
Soon his more earthly home is no less terrible than his bizarre vision, as swine-like creatures boil from a cavern beneath the ground and besiege it. But a still greater horror will face the recluse - more inexorable, merciless and awful than any creature that can be fought or killed.

A few years ago I delved into the Carnacki stories written by Hope Hodgson.  They turned out to be an excellent set of excursions into the world of the supernatural investigator.  Hodgson's 1908 novel ' The House on the Borderland' has been on my wishlist ever since.

It tells of two men on a fishing holiday in Ireland who discover, in the ruins of a house near a great lake, a book which they take home and read. The book tells of the experiences of the, un-named, owner of, what must be assumed to be, the ruined house, his housekeeper sister, Mary and his dog Pepper. Over the course of the narrative several odd and, for the most part, deeply unpleasant events befall him such as his journey to 'the plain of silence' with it's surrounding mountains and their giant statues of gods, beasts and demons, his bedevilment on several occasions by swine creatures (similar to the one featured in the later Carnacki story, 'The Hog') and his witnessing of the end of the world.

It's beautifully imagined and written and you can almost feel the impact that the story had on the fiction to follow particularly on authors such as Lovecraft.  Throughout the novel Hodgson deftly keeps you unsure as to whether the reclusive houseowner is having a truly horrendous time at the mercy of the supernatural or if he is utterly insane and having delusional psychotic episodes.  The joy is that whichever way you decide the story is going it remains equally enjoyable.

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