Winter Reading: The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson with an Assist from James Stoddard

Winter Reading: The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson with an Assist from James Stoddard

night land

If you’ve at any point heard some rumors, some whispers, some strange buzz about this book by William Hope Hodgson called The Night Land… maybe you’ve heard it is one of the greatest works of horror or dystopian dark fantasy…but you’ve also heard that it’s practically unreadable because of Hodgson’s choice to write it in a very weird prose style…”Penned in 1912, The Night Land is considered by many to be a work of genius, but one written in a difficult, archaic style that readers often find impenetrable.”

In 2010, James Stoddard (a fantastic fantasy author in his own right) wrote a “translation” into a more modern, readable vernacular. If you’re thinking of maybe reading Stoddard’s version, I must tell you this:

DO IT. Sooner rather than later. The fact is, one of the all-time great masterworks of sustained horror and imaginative vision, was, unfortunately, self-hampered by its author with his choice of writing it in a clunky, pseudo-archaic language. Stoddard did a supreme service to all of us by simply adapting the work into accessible modern English. I read Stoddard’s version, and via that gateway discovered what all the fuss was about. Yes, it really is that great an achievement: If Hodgson had written it in more accessible language, it would be as well known and celebrated today as any of the other seminal works of horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

The Night Land: A Story Retold is available on Kindle for $3.99 and in paperback for $11.99 through Amazon, as well as audiobook through Audible!

The Night Land

You can read a more complete overview of Hodgon’s work and Stoddard’s “collaboration” in this 2014 post.

You can read our interview with Stoddard about adapting the work of one of the greats in this 2016 post.

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Fletcher Vredenburgh

Spurred by your comment on The High House, I just started Hodgson’s original 2 weeks ago. Rough going at first, but then WHH’s off-kilter rhythm takes hold and the beautiful weirdness takes hold.

John R. Fultz

“beautiful weirdness…”

Alright, alright, alriiiight…

(Thaswotumtalkinbout)

John R. Fultz

Right on, Nick!

Thomas Parker

For me, hearing someone declare a book impenetrable or unreadable is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. So off the shelf comes my decades old paperback (it’s the Sphere edition pictured at the bottom of the post), and the vow is made – time to read this sucker!

Just as soon as I’m done with Anna Karenina. Should be an interesting contrast!

Joe H.

I’ve read & enjoyed both versions, although the original required quite a lot of effort and multiple tries. Next time I read it will probably be the Hodgson original, just because that’s what’s up next in my Night Shade Collected Fiction set.

NeilH

I have the Pan/Ballantine edition pictured at the head of this article and read the whole lot way back when I was a teenager, (early 1970s). But it should be pointed out that for this edition Lin Carter edited the text, abridging it. Even so, it is still a difficult read. That said, this did not put me off and I remember that I thought it a magnificent novel. After that,I sought out and purchased whatever Hodgson I could find but I have never tried to reread The Night Land.

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