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BOOK REVIEW – WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON - THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND 1908 New English Library.

 

One of the most terrifying and original horror stories ever penned. It begins innocently enough when two men traveling on the rugged Irish coast in search of good fishing, find a crumbling ruin in a deep pit by a waterfall. The place exudes a sense of evil, and the pair decides to leave, but as they are going they find a manuscript telling the story of someone else who once came to the same place. The pair somehow gets the manuscript, The House On The Borderland, to the author Hodgson, who edits the script for presentation to the general readers.

 

The man who took the house is a young figure known only as The Recluse. He finds the round castle like property strange and filled with evil, but he wishes to hide away from the world for undisclosed reasons. His only friend is his dog, Pepper. He gets more than he bargained for. One night, the candles flicker in strange colours and he has a very odd out of the body experience, flying out of his house through a desolate landscape covered in statues of ancient gods and demons, which may be alive and sentient. He sees nasty pig-like demons. He is then brought to a giant scale version of his own house.

 

Freaked out by this, and strange visions of the Universe and planets, in which he looks back on the Earth melting away behind himself, The Recluse invites his sister, Mary to stay with him. Son after she arrives, the pig-demons attack, and hold the house under siege for many days. Mary seems more frightened by her brother, who locks her in her bedroom to prevent her escaping or letting the monsters in.

 

The Recluse can leave the house any time he wishes, and does go out to buy provisions. He considers leaving altogether, but he sees visions of some unnamed former lover, and he feels compelled to stay and see her again.

 

The house now travels forward in time to the end of the Universe and time itself. The man grows old in a matter of days. The house furnishings, and windows crumble to dust, as, terrifyingly, does Pepper.

 

Drawn back to his own time, but not allowed to grow younger, The Recluse gets another dog, but that gets attacked by some strange force and begins to rot. The same force incinerates a cat that visits the garden of the house. When he too is contaminated, The Recluse shoots and buries the dog. He now finishes his book as the pig creature’s attack again, and it is clear that he expects them to find him and kill him.

 

Much is left unexplained and ambiguous. The nature of the house is never explained. Is it some personal Hell for The Recluse? Is he dreaming? Is he the monster?  The whole story is left in explicable, and much is left unexplained. It is the graphic depictions of time and space distortion, and horrid monsters that stick in the mind. The story is one long Freudian nightmare.

 

H. P. Lovecraft admires the work as a major influence and it is easy to see why. Sadly, soon after writing it, Hodgson was killed fighting in World War One. It was the loss of a truly major talent.

 

© Copyright. Arthur Chappell        

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