37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Allow me to clarify that my rating has nothing whatsoever to do with Hodgson's writings - each of which I would readily rate 3.5 stars and above. I find the ebb and flow of his prose incredibly entrancing, especially in his magnum opus, The Night Land; and that, I confess, is the sole reason why I have thus far refrained myself from hurling this particular volume into the fire in vexation. With a price tag of $285 (or $395, if bought directly from Centipede Press), I could not have imagined the book to be of such low merit. It would be impossible to list all of its problems, but by far the two most excruciating offences are those regarding-
1) The illustrations: again, the artworks themselves are of great quality. However, these works, when reproduced here, are exceedingly smudgy, with dull colour schemes and highly perceptible pixelation. I believe that if I had downloaded the drawings from the internet, then printed them off my HP Deskjet 2050 (i.e. one of the lowest-end colour-printers around), these prints would have looked quite as "fine" as the atrocious prints in this book. The only exception to this rule is the awesome illustration by Ian Miller, fantastically reproduced on the first two translucent, nylon-like pages of the volume.
2) Editing and proof-reading: the people at Centipede Press did not do a good job (or even a decent job) in this department. This is painfully obvious from the moment when I first skimmed through the table of contents, a portion of which appeared as follows:
- The Searcher of the End House 839
- The Haunted Jarvee 825
- The Thing Invisible 839
- Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani 877
Needless to say, I was flabbergasted with this nonsense; and after much perusal, was able to find the correct sequence, which ran as follows:
- The Searcher of the End House 839
- The Haunted Jarvee 861
- Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani 877
- The Thing Invisible 891
More insulting, though, is the fact that in certain stories, not only would there be a most generous offering of typos, but also of paragraphs cut short right in the middle, or even the beginning, of a sentence - something which I can only view as the result of the publisher's stupendous negligence, or incompetence. For example, this is one passage in The House on the Borderland (p 276):
"The cat gave a last, awful caterwaul, and I saw it smoke and blaze. My breath came with a gasp, and I leant against the wall. O"
It ended just like that, with an uppercase O. Now, this is how the passage ends, as per wikisource:
"[...] I leant against the wall. Over that part of the window there spread a smudge, green and fantastic. It hid the thing from me, though the glare of the fire shone through, dully. A stench of burning, stole into the room."
Another example, from the same story (p 287):
"This news, it appears, so excited the curiosity of the villagers, that they overcame their fears, and mThere, [...]"
which should have read as:
"This news, it appears, so excited the curiosity of the villagers, that they overcame their fears, and marched en-masse to the place. There, [...]"
As can be imagined, such glaring errors make the reading of William Hope Hodgson: Masters of the Weird Tale an incredibly frustrating experience. The shortcomings can hardly justify the exorbitant $285 (or, as I've mentioned, $395) price tag. I strongly advise all potential buyers against repeating my foolish mistake of purchasing this; get Nightshade Books' 5-volume set of all of Hodgson's works instead. True, it's now out of print, and the price for the remaining stock listed by sellers on this site can only be described as "bovine excrement", but as a whole it would still have much higher value for money than this book - at least Nightshade knows how to edit texts properly. As for Centipede Press, congratulations. This is this the first, and also the last time you will ever count me among your customers.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Of the two novels, The House on the Borderland and The Ghost Pirates, economy of space forbids full summaries. They're both classics and best addressed as stand-alone works, although several points might be worth mentioning. "House" reminds me of Poe's "Usher " ... an unsteady dwelling, whose innards seem without end; there's always more, another room, a gloomier gloom, a deeper cellar; doors just strong enough to hold things out, or in, or both when there is no out or in left to discern. Weird psychic barriers made of nothing are constantly struggling against the nonporous integrity of the stone and mortar. Time and space go crazy. If Shakespeare's time was "out of joint," then Hodgson's time is suffering a major dislocation. Just ask Pepper, his dog, if you don`t believe me. Poor Pepper. Let's just say he looked more like Salt at the end of the story. There's a long passage (much like this book review) that arrives suddenly, about page 94, commencing with the stars and the sun and the planets, all cut from their normal moorings of orbit and gravity, and going through wild time dilations and spatial morphings for some 40 pages---the green star!--- which many may consider a drawn-out bog whereby the story drags on into boredom, but such is not the case; this sojourn into fractured time and space belongs there, right where it is. There's a reason its called the house on the borderland, and it is here that the house behaves like some sort of malleable haunted Klein Bottle; its outside becomes its inside, it goes in on itself then expands back out, with the sky going through cycles made of diminishing red-striped moons and flaring novas of green suns, everything reaching for that one hidden dimension that would make the whole picture complete. And Pepper? Maybe not the dust which is God, but at least the dust that was dog. Poor Pepper.
With respect to The Ghost Pirates, Hodgson didn't settle for mere palm-reading of the waves. He fully understood the ocean; its deeps, its voice, its silence, its mercurial moods and the abrupt changes of atmosphere whereby the invisible and the visible often contend among shrouds and sails of mysterious phantom vessels. And the same literary tools he so ably wielded upon his sea tales, he adroitly adapts to his more grounded forays into the unknown and mysterious: haunted rooms, haunted wells, eerie cellars, haunted wells in eerie cellars! Such is the realm of Carnacki.
Carnacki was new to me, and I suspect to many Hodgsonites. An interesting character who finds himself repeatedly caught up in the wild stirrings of penultimate pentacles and twisting tentacles. A nice touch about Carnacki is, that however composed and comfortable he is in telling his tales after the fact, he fully admits to being afraid of what he encounters during the episode. And even though the case is resolved in the end, he doesn't hesitate to leave a shard of unknown upon its exit. If he can't explain something, he admits it.
The best stories, in my opinion of course, Carnacki or otherwise, include:
"The Mystery of the Derelict" ...an old shipwreck, stalled in the grips of the dreaded Sargasso Sea, and a rat attack like none before...
"A Voice in the Night" ...you'll be hungry for more...
"The Thing Invisible" ...a great big house, a haunted chapel, a butler who gets butlered, a doggone dagger that is and isn`t, an ancient curse, a suit of armor stabbed!(`tis only a metal scarecrow, fear not), a door that's locked, a crazy fellow, a clumsy camera, ergo a simple solution.
"The Thing in the Weeds" ...a heavy mist gliding in, covering all in the night, till the vanishing vapors of dawn reveal a gathering assembly of weeds, curiously approaching like innocent feathers, aggressively surrounding like recalcitrant dodder. Plus a rather squid-ish presence in the weeds.
Also notable is "The Derelict"...they find a long abandoned ship. A rotten old vessel surrounded and trapped in by some hideous pasty flotsam, a sticky disgusting mess, that adheres to their oars as they approach, a boat alive with skin, and having a very healthy appetite.
But the main highlight was "The Hog" . Notwithstanding the foolish focus of the story, namely the gigantic ghost of a gargantuan pig, the story contains some very interesting constructions of thought in speculative science. First published 1947, August Derleth, and by default written pre-1918, these ideas were ahead of their time. A very good story; looking to the past, I hear Poe's pendulum and Dante's Inferno; forward I hear Lovecraft's "From Beyond" and "The Electric Executioner" ; also the enduring echoes of "The Hound". Here we find Mr. Bains, who has a recurring nightmare, and upon awakening, he always hears the sound of a pig. From then on we are treated to ...an electric room with different color lights...an apparatus for hearing another's dream...a table sinking lower and lower into shadow...swirling weird effects, yet Mr. Bains can't be awakened..."an utter velvety blackness that seemed to soak the very light out of the room down into it." in the parlance of modern cosmology, one might say a black hole is being suggested...the word "blent" is used on page 685...Bains finally wakes up and goes hog wild!...the room goes red with dread...light that makes sound...light filling up a room like a liquid...a blue light locked in combat with a red light, wrestling for dominance...a mini treatise gets shoehorned in at the end, on the difference between the physical eye and the psychic eye; their conflict and reconciliation; they must act in concert for revelation...I repeat, a very good story.
Finally, on the construction of the book. The four Centipede volumes currently offered are Bricks! not mere books. A piano hinge may have been in order for the heavy cover on this treasure chest. The pages are the heaviest I have ever encountered---planks of pages, indelibly stamped with confidence! not flimsy see-through tissues of hesitant thought---I repeatedly thought I was turning two pages at a time. The book ribbon is equally sound ---a red rope tossed out by Hodgson to lend guidance. There's something about a book so well constructed that seems to render its contents more important, a well-attired invitation is offered, demanding slower reflection, even though the same stories may have enjoyed previous incarnations in the passing lives of countless paperbacks. Wow! Talk about a long-winded book review...and my first ever, no less! Well, if you're on-the-fence deciding about this book, I hope my review helps. It's a limited run they tell me, (only 500 of us in all the world can ever have one) so you should grab one while you can.
p.s. Interesting punctuation on page 449; like tears from a Russian doll, a nested barrage of quoting quoted quotes breaks out: " ` " That's that blessed ghost!" (to which I can only reply ! And if you quote me on that, make it "!" and if someone quotes you quoting me, make it " `!' " and so on.) The raven would have took wing if Mr. Poe tried such a stunt, stormy night or otherwise.
p.s.2: a sentence from "The Whistling Room" : "Then I looked up the chimney...and I could see blue sky at the top."
Sounds nice, doesn't it? The bright blue sky, clean and silently dreaming, framed by a square of black night. The chimney implying depth; the blue sky, freedom, yet to reach that sky, an impossible journey.
p.s.3: for clarity, the above mentioned 1947, August Derleth was a whimsical substitute for 1947, A.D.