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on 26 January 2017
Sent as a gift
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on 2 August 2017
This novel sits somewhere between weird fiction in the style of Machen, Lovecraft, et al, and traditional horror. I found the first third compelling, but then lost interest slightly as the narrative slips into descriptions of space and time travel. Also, some of the characters, especially women, are fairly one dimensional. All that aside, his descriptions of the swine-things are truly upsetting, and he really does get across a sense of claustrophobic terror. Definitely worth reading.
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I had this book on my "to get" list for a while, but it took this particularly well produced edition by Penguin to finally grab me and I'm glad it did, because it is an interesting and unusual story and for the most part, a cracking good read. The Penguin edition is well produced, printed on nice paper and properly typeset, not an OCR'd version of an earlier edition (though can someone tell me why, when the series has on overall yellow design, they are called "red Penguins?)

Like other reviewers I'm finding it hard to discuss "House" without spoilers. So the abbreviated review is this: scary, atmospheric and troubling, though perhaps a bit saggy in the third quarter. Worth getting.

Now for the spoilers - stop here if you want!

OK. The story is told by a nameless narrator, living in a remote house in Ireland with his elderly sister. Following a landslip that exposes strange caverns under the house, it is besieged by devilish human-pig creatures (though we don't really know that they are evil - and and our narrator did shoot first!). Between the assaults, the Narrator himself is plagued by out of body experiences. In the first of these he is taken to an alternate world where stands an analogue of the House. When the House is beset by the pig creatures, the analogue suffers the same assaults. The attack on the House is one of best and most convincing parts of the book, genuinely scary, and underlined by the way in which the sister, Mary, is seemingly unaware of the attack. Is the Narrator losing his reason? Are the creatures real? We are never sure.

In another extended episode, the Narrator witnesses the ageing of the Universe and the end of the world (as understood, perhaps, by late 19th century science). This is one of the less successful parts of the book. It goes on rather too long and there is too much purple prose. One can see the proto Lovecraft here, perhaps (HPL himself is quoted approvingly on the book's cover). But this section is still a tour de force of early science fiction, truly ambitious in its conception and worth sticking with. When it ends, things get nasty, very nasty, in short order.

I really enjoyed this book, although there is a little of The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Oxford World's Classics) about it - too many diverse weird events (glowing green monsters, the out of body stuff, the pig-creatures, the end of the Universe, mysterious caverns and trapdoors). In the end there are no certain answers. We are left wondering what really happened, and why. That's OK by me - much spookier than a neat resolution - but a bit more of a unifying theme might have helped. But it is a good read and those pages really turn once it gets going! Probably best to enjoy in one sitting, by a log fire, with most of the lights out and a storm outside - but it worked for me on a Chiltern Railways commuter train in daylight, so the writing must be pretty good.

As a footnote, the Penguin edition gives a short biography of William Hope Hodgson who died in the Great War, in April 1918, at the age of 41. Only one death among many, I know, but very sad.
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on 15 May 2010
Willam Hope Hodgson was a remarkable character who was one of the fathers of the Weird Tales generation of the early 20th Century. His literary legacy is large and varied but The House On The Borderland is generally acknowledged as one of his finest works. It's certainly one of the strangest.

The book, for the most part, takes the form of a manuscript found in the ruins of an ancient house. The manuscript's author reveal the incidents leading up to the houses ruination. And so follows a book of two distinct part. In the first a fairly straight forward Gothic horror with strange swine faced monsters but this eventually mutates into the bizarre head trip through space as the narrator explains how he travelled through time and space, literally to the ends of the earth.

It's clear to see how this vision of cosmic horror amidst distant nebulae influenced the likes of H.P. Lovecraft but at the same time the roots of this book in the Gothic tradition are also clear. What we are reading here is nothing less than the evolution of the Horror novel.

The pace and tension in the first part of the book are remarkable given it's age. This is a book that reads well despite it passing it's 101st birthday recently. The second part is more difficult. It's remarkable in many ways for the sheer vision. It's like a cross between the Wizard of Oz and the ending of 2001 but it's perhaps just a bit too long.

All in all though this is a true classic not only was it a pioneering book at the time but it remains a valid and enjoyable read today. Despite all the gore which has immunised us over the years, all the repetitive plots and tropes, this book still manages to stand out as a visionary masterpiece.
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on 15 January 2010
If you like Lovecrafts more mindboggling and cosmic horror stories, like 'The Shadow Out of Time' or 'Mountains of Madness', you will probably appriciate 'The House on the Borderland' by William Hope Hodgson. Sure, Lovecraft liked Hodgsons writing and mentions him in his essay 'Supernatuiral Horror in Literature' along with Hodgsons other classic: 'The Night Land' (1912).

The story shouldn't be discussed too much in advance. Lets just say that most of it is in the form of a manuscript found in the ruins of a mysterious house. The manuscript is written by the former owner of the house. We learn that this is no ordinary house. Just like the blackout the professor got in Lovecrafts 'The Shadow out of Time' was no ordinary blackout. Far from it. Saying more will just spoil the reading experience.

On the Penguin pocket ('Red Classics' series) from 2008: I like the design, but I think as part of a series of horror literature it could have included a more detailed introduction of Hodgson.

Strongly recommended to anyone who likes Lovecraft, horror, fantasy or science fiction, or just the unusual and strange.
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I'm a Lovecraft man through and through. Let's trek to the Mountains of Madness. Let's dive deep into the Cthulhu mythos and see what we find. I even like many of the homage-style reimaginings. But sometimes you need a break from Lovecraft's style and preoccupations. And that's where this little gem comes in. Written in 1908, this story, and Hodgson's larger body of work, left an indelible impression on Lovecraft, and on many of our best known contemporary writers of horror fiction. Many commentators have observed that Hodgson's work marked the first great move away from typical Gothic fiction and toward a more realistic, scientific, cosmic, "multi-dimensional" sort of horror writing.

The book is actually a bit of a two-fer. Some fishermen on a walk-about find the abandoned ruins of a strange castle-like mansion. Within the ruins they find the remains of an old manuscript. This book is that manuscript; the ruin is the House on the Borderland.

MILD GENERAL SPOILERS. We start with the traditional disclaimer from the unknown author that what he has written may sound mad, but really isn't. From there we learn that the house was abandoned before he moved in, had an evil reputation, and indeed began eventually to creep him out. So far, so good. The story then continues until it abruptly ends. Until then, the author tells two stories that aren't really all that related.

The first story is a general doorway to the pit of hell type story. It's moody, the tension and dread are handled nicely, and the overall effect is along the lines of barricaded-in-the-farmhouse while the zombies try the doorknobs. Perfectly fine, but overwritten and overwrought in an old-fashioned way. I will admit I did a bit of skimming.

The second story, though, is the grabber. This is a House on the Borderland, but it's the borderland between the here and now and other dimensions and universes. BIG SPOILERS. Basically, the house is a portal, or stargate, or wormhole, or transporter, or whatever you want to call it. Our author is transported through time and space, floats through the solar system, visits other worlds and dimensions, and sees things - scary, mythical, alien things. Again, the author's descriptions get a little purple, but it all prefigures the multiverse, space-time, quantum stuff that's being written today, and it's all written in that vaguely formal, full of dread and portent style that's fun when done right.

And get this. As a bonus, (BIG SPOILERS), at one point the author gets to look out his window and watch time go by so quickly that he observes the death of our Sun, the destruction of our solar system, and the death of the universe. With a little tweaking you could fit his description into a standard cosmology model and have a decently correct description of that event. How cool is that for a book over a hundred years old?

So, this is an important book in the genre, the writing is old-fashioned and a bit creaky but way fresher than you might expect, and the book is loaded with ideas that are fun and that are all the more impressive for being so attuned to what would actually be discovered about the universe. With a bit of judicious skimming, (skip the swine-thing creatures), this was an excellent treat.

(Please note that I found this book a while ago while browsing Amazon Kindle freebies. As you have probably surmised, I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
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on 23 April 2014
H.P. Lovecraft cited William Hope Hodgson as one of his biggest influences and it’s not difficult to see why. The framing device of a narrator and his discovery of a lost diary, astral projection and monstrous god-like beings which inhabit the distant stars – remote and incomprehensible – all play their part here.

Even though the book was published in 1908 it still remains an engaging and vivid work. The sense of menace is overpowering. The threat begins with strange swine-like creatures that attack his home but soon expands into a cosmic horror surpassing old H.P himself for it is more vivid and explicit than anything the gentleman of Providence, Rhode Island ever wrote. There is also an incredible scene where time speeds up to an impossible degree. Some critics have argued this section owes much to H.G. Well's Time Machine. If it does then it far surpasses the original.

House on the Borderland is a short work but somehow leaves the reader feeling they have just read a much longer, epic work. It is one of the most striking books I've ever read and has left such a deep impression in my already overactive imagination that I'm compelled from time to time to revisit it. I've read this one now at least four times.

But one word of warning, don't expect any answers or indeed explanations. There aren't any.
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on 24 September 2013
The first time I read this, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. I've recently read it again, and I have to say I much preferred it second time round.

As people have already described, the book takes the form of a manuscript which has been found by 2 friends holidaying in Ireland. The manuscript apparently tells of how a nameless Narrator and his sister were menaced by weird 'swine-things' that emerge from a pit, before an odd interlude where he seems to travel in his mind to the end of the universe.

I say 'apparently' and 'seems' because I do wonder if all this was just in the Narrator's head. And certainly his sister seems to be more frightened of him and his behaviour than any of the 'swine things' attacking the house. It's an open question how real or not the events are that the book doesn't attempt to anwer, but it is something to consider.

House on the Borderlands also reminded me of the more recent House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski, in that the house in question seems to be linked up to different points in time and space, and possibly other dimensions too. I'd say it is more successful than House of Leaves in that it took far less time to achieve a sense of unease and uncanniness, and that it is written in a more direct, engaging style, while I found the 'narrative within a narrative' in House of Leaves actively got in the way of telling the story.

House on the Borderlands is often compared to Lovecraft, and it is through HPL that I discovered it in the first place. But again, it doesn't suffer from the purple prose that can often undermine HPL.

One final thought, I did wonder if the far future the Narrator travels to was the same future as that in The Night Land. I have to say I've never been able to finish that, but there were some similarities at least.

House on the Borderlands is an otherworldly place that is definitely worth a visit.
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on 17 September 2013
Not only the best gothic horror I've ever read, but the best horror.

Not only that, this is a superb work of fantasy and a brilliant piece of science fiction in terms of the cosmic imagery and the (spoiler) journey to the end of the universe.

Stories about Hodgson himself are marvellous- that he held the record for keeping Harry Houdini tied up, and others.

True, this book suffers from dialogue of its age that seems silly now, but it is breathtakingly good.

I wish I were reading it again for the first time, it's so good.

Most of his others are rewarding, some hard going like "The Night Land", but WHH is unjustly neglected. The 1980s NEL edition of THOTB has the definitive swine-folk image to me. You can find a full audiobook at Librivox.org.

There is also an out of print graphic novel. The drawings are fantastic, but I dislike elements of the updating of the story-notably some rather incestuous parts, and the cosmic wonder is largely lost, so it's good to have as well, but it's not a substitute.

The House on the Borderland. Absolutely fan damn tastic. Not possible to over-praise.
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on 27 April 2014
Hodgson's imagination is fascinating however, the structure of his writing is flawed. If you really want to enjoy the book you have to forget the commas and semicolons, and go on with the flow and power of the story.
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