Cited by H.P. Lovecraft as one of his major influences, this was written in 1908, Hogson was a failed sailor, physical fitness enthusiast, failed poet, and writer at which he had some success, mostly with his later Carnacki stories. This and The Night Land are the two most directly applicable to weird tales and fantasy/horror gaming; I read both of these last back in the ’80s, don’t remember TNL as being anything deep, this one I remembered as a weird tale worth rereading.
Hey, this is all spoiler. Read the book, I think it’s fantastic, but flawed, and I can’t talk about that without spoilers.
From the Manuscript discovered in 1877 by Messrs. Tonnison and Berreggnog in the Ruins that lie to the south of the Village of Kraighten, in the west of Ireland. Set out here, with Notes.
The Framing Device: Two young men on a camping vacation in Ireland find a ruin around an endless pit, and an old manuscript diary, which they read. At the end, they question the local guide and find out some of the events of the manuscript match an old-timer’s story. Woo-ee-oo. I’m glad the “let me tell you a story someone else told” device went away, it was also used in A Princess of Mars and far too many of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, where a story by the protagonist is more immediate.
The Recluse: An old man (name never given) lives alone. Almost. His sister Mary who has nearly no dialogue, no purpose except to explain how a man can live without having to cook for himself. And a dog, Pepper, who is the hero of the story, not quite an impossibly smart TV show dog (a half-century before Lassie will be invented). He comes to remote Ireland to buy a shunned house where he can have peace and quiet to write. This largely seems to consist of him sitting in his den reading all day, with dog by his feet, which is a fine lifestyle I engage in myself.
The Monsters: Investigating the OTHER vast endless pit at the far end of the gardens, monsters come up. Hero dog and old man flee back to the house, a siege fit for any monster/zombie flick ensues, including a few cunning tricks by the monsters and the Recluse. This entire initial section is basically enough for any other novel; it is perhaps a little fast at introducing and dealing with the monsters and attacks, but happily he’s not some tedious typical paid-by-the-word Victorian writer. Almost too much so, it reads like any modern action-horror book, 30 years before Lovecraft or Howard got to this point in their writing.
The Visions: Mary denies knowing anything of the weird. I’m not sure how to take that. Was she driven mad by the monsters? Is the Recluse crazy? … Maybe? Next is a long out-of-body experience of seeing the universe. We find out just how important the House is, if not why. The Recluse learns more of the Pit, and exploration starts off very D&D-like, arming up and carrying a stack of candles, and then goes completely off from expectations. Another vision begins, which has horrific consequences.
The Love: Here’s what I don’t understand. He’s seen, essentially, a faerie queen, or a ghost, and fallen for her, and cannot stay with her. The sections about her are almost incidental, and yet drive his later behavior. If she’d been inserted at the start of the visions, even driving them along, she’d make more sense. If there was any way for him to reach the Sea of Sleep, or her to reach out, that’d tie her into the story. As it is, it’s just a weird “and also ghost lady”.
Again Visions: Time passing and the ultimate fate of the Earth and Sun, and a reunion of planets and the House in an arena at the end of time. Which may be taken to mean the titans are playing games with mortals, the arena house is a reflection of the real house, like we may use miniatures and models to represent a game. And then back in the present, everything is lost, a final confrontation, which no heroic dog or old man can stop; if the things beyond this reality want to strike you down, they will.
The visions are hard to read. It’s often not clear what’s acting on what, which planet or sun is being seen at any time. The overall flow works, but the details are unfinished. Would they even make sense if they were more coherent? The Love’s role is unclear, and a man just enamored of a faerie lady isn’t fitting with the vast cosmic scope of the visions, or the fairly earthy monsters.
★★★★½ – must-read, but half is too weird to understand.
Also, the poem at the start, is “Shoon of the Dead”. I’m sure Shaun of the Dead is named for Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, but it’s odd.