Saturday, April 12, 2014

Awake in the Night Lands

Awake in the Night Lands is an amazing group of short stories set in William Hope Hodgson's 'Night Land' milieu. The stories are mesmerizing and immerse the reader in a nightmare scape of utter horror.  Set millions of years in the future the story and setting can really only be compared to the worst nightmares of Lovecraft. I cannot stress enough, read this book! If you like Lovecraft, the darkest visions of Stephen King, or the visions of H.R. Giger you will love this book. If you like science fiction especially the 'Dying Earth' genre of Jack Vance, Leigh Brackett, Michael Moorcock, you will love this book. If you've never heard of those authors or those books read this book. You'll be giving yourself a treat you will never forget and expanding your horizons.

The stories are on the surface grim and dark. At no point in the stories are the protagonists offered anything like hope. Nowhere outside the seven mile high pyramid, 'The Great Redoubt' is there any rest, any place, any living thing that is not utterly opposed to human life and even the human soul. The Great Redoubt is the last human dwelling in the entire universe. There are tales of other places that might have been but by the time of the stories no other humans are known or believed to exist. All human colonies on other worlds are lost. No real human history from before the tens of millions of years old Redoubt is remembered. Even the memory of the sun and moon have passed into myth, no longer even considered history.

The world is utterly heartless, cruel, and filled with mountain sized beings full of inhuman hate. However, the protagonists still beyond all reason maintain hope even when they know practically the day and hour the world and all human life will end. The stories despite or maybe because of the darkness of the setting maintain a humanity that reaches across the millions of years of the last races of man to touch our own hearts.

As horror stories go they are top notch full of darkness, crawling terror, sights that freeze the human spirit and people you care about put into real peril. The stories are usually about love that most human of emotion that travels down time and between stars and unites the people who love each other even after of millions of years.

The love that people feel is usually the impulse for the protagonists to put themselves into danger. It is perhaps the only motivation that is enough to send anyone into the darkness and soul-peril of the Night Lands. Now to the setting of the stories, the Night Land itself.

There is nothing else like the Night Lands. I have not read Hodgson's story so I cannot guess how close Wright has come to Hodgson's vision but whatever the case the Night Lands is a place that is full of nightmarish visions as real and compelling as any dream you might have. Frozen plains of black salt, channeled badlands filled with poison fumes, crusted black snow covering caustic liquids, poison springs of grey boiling waters, unholy houses whose doors never shut and call to the unwary, lost and abandon buildings either empty or filled with monsters squatting in the ruins, a whole ecology of beasts and spirits, inhuman and antithetical to everything human. And worse, creatures the size of mountains that are forever watching the last dwelling of man. Waiting and watching for the day they will break the adamantine doors of "The Great Redoubt" and hunt the last humans and even their souls to extinction and unlife. Even worse beings hunt the Night Lands creatures that merely seeing can cause madness or loss of life and worse soul.

If you love tabletop role playing you must read this book. There are so many inspirations for a game master or player that I cannot list them all. I have already cribbed ideas from this book for my own campaign setting. I cannot wait to share these creatures, artifacts, people, and especially places with my gaming group.

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