The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

William Hope Hodgson’s first published novel, “The Boats of the Glen Carrig” (1907), is a tale of survival after a foundering at sea, replete with carnivorous trees, crab monsters, bipedal slugmen and giant octopi. In his now-classic second novel, “The House on the Borderland,” which was released the following year, Hodgson, remarkably, upped the ante, and the result is one of the first instances of “cosmic horror” in literature, and a stunning amalgam of sci-fi and macabre fantasy. An inspiration for no less a practitioner than H.P. Lovecraft, the book really is a parcel of malign wonders. Once read, it will not be easily forgotten.

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.

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.

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