The Night Land

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"This to be Love, that your spirit to live in a natural holiness with the Beloved, and your bodies to be a sweet and natural delight that shall be never lost of a lovely mystery…. And shame to be unborn, and all things to go wholesome and proper, out of an utter greatness of understanding; and the Man to be an Hero and a Child before the Woman; and the Woman to be an Holy Light of the Spirit and an Utter Companion and in the same time a glad Possession unto the Man…. And this doth be Human Love…."

The Sun has died. The remaining millions of the human race have moved downward into deep ravines, where vulcanism still provides enough heat to keep the air in a breathable form. Humanity's survivors live on in a few pyramidal Redoubts, lit, heated, and defended by the mysterious Earth Current. They await the inevitable day when the Current fails and the monsters gathering outside swarm their defences.

William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land was first published in 1912. On the most basic level, it's a heroic fantasy in which the Knight in Shining Armor braves terrible monsters and overcomes formidable challenges to rescue the Damsel in Distress. In practice, its main appeal is not the somewhat tedious hero's quest, but the vividly-described and extraordinarily imaginative creatures and horrors of the Land itself, prompting H.P. Lovecraft to describe it as "one of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination ever written" even in the face of its ludicrous pseudo-17th-century writing style.

The Night Land has inspired at least three posthumous collections of short stories set in the same universe:

  • Night Lands, Volume I: Eternal Love edited by Andy W. Robertson.
  • Night Lands, Volume II: Nightmares of the Fall edited by Andy W. Robertson.
  • Awake in the Night Land by John C. Wright.

The complete work is available here at Project Gutenberg.

Tropes used in The Night Land include:
  • After the End: Several ends: the cataclysmic explosion that blew a 100-mile-deep valley into the Earth; the experiments that let the soul-eating Eldritch Abominations get to Earth; the death of the Sun.
  • Always Night: Believe it or not.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: the Air Clog; food pills; a powder that creates drinkable water when exposed to air.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted - the narrator states several times that only his armor saved him from severe injury or death.
  • Author Appeal: Hodgson had much to say on bodybuilding, domination, submission, and gender roles, and it shows.
    • Also Foot Focus - the narrator-hero has a lot to say about the heroine's pretty feet.
  • Berserk Button: The narrator, when his love-interest Naani is attacked and put into a coma to the point where she is thought to be dead; he runs for 3 days without sleeping to bring her to safety, slashing giants and mutants out of his way. He even cuts a clawed giant in two with a single, one-handed swipe.
  • Cosmic Horror Story before H.P. Lovecraft invented it.
  • Crapsack World And how!
  • Cyanide Pill: Anyone who ventures outside the Redoubt has a poison capsule implanted in one arm for emergencies.
  • Dark World
  • Death by Childbirth: Naani's first incarnation, Mirdath.
  • Determinator
  • Deus Ex Machina: Partially subverted, as the mysterious and unexplained Shining Powers of Goodness don't always succeed in saving the day.
  • Disney Death: Naani
  • Damsel in Distress
  • The Dreaded: The Night Hounds.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Tons of them; the Night Land is crawling with them.
  • Empathic Weapon
  • Fanfic: Numerous works are collected at https://web.archive.org/web/20180809183718/http://thenightland.co.uk/, including many of high quality. Unfortunately a number of them are only partially online, requiring you to buy a printed collection to read the end.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Literally so, hence the poison capsules.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Averted. Even though the hero is narrating his own story, said story is about a dream he had of something that will happen to him in the future; therefore, until the ending, the reader has no way of knowing whether-or-not the hero will survive.
  • The Future
  • Giant Spider: Enormous, burrowing, yellow, and venomous.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Giants are an extremely unpleasant type, between unspecified monsters and 'bestial humans'.
  • Heroic Fantasy
  • Heroic Willpower
  • Holding Back the Phlebotinum: Using a super weapon is a good way to provoke the monsters outside.
  • Jumped At the Call
  • Kill All Humans. Or worse.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Well, grey armour, anyway.
  • Lost Technology
  • Mordor
  • Narrator
  • Neologisms such as "Monstruwacan".
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Aschoff
  • Non-Action Big Bad: The Evil Forces, particularly the House of Silence.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The fact that the Hero doesn't know exactly what happens to the red shirts after they enter the House of Silence freaks him out all the more. It gets to the point that the noises of the other abominations become a comforting distraction.
  • The Obstructive Love Interest: Zig-zagged; she alternates between absurd obstructiveness and considerable competence.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Yellow skin, 4 arms, may not actually be undead (it's really hard to say, considering the story's setting); none of these traits scream typical vampire, now do they?
  • Our Wormholes Are Different / Negative Space Wedgie: The "Doorways in the Night", holes in the universe which open up and let in soul-eating things.
  • The Power of Love
  • Prehistoria: The Country of Seas and Volcanoes is based off of popular ideas of the time about the prehistoric world (the idea being that similar conditions produce similar creatures)
  • Psychic Powers: A form of telepathy using "brain-elements". The text is unclear as to whether these elements are natural parts of the brain or some kind of implant.
  • Ragnarok Proofing: There are aircraft which would still work, except that the air has gotten too thin to support them - they've remained in functional condition for hundreds of thousands or millions of years.
  • Red Shirt: Numerous characters who leave the Redoubt. Many suffer the Fate Worse Than Death.
  • Reincarnation Romance
  • The Remake: The Night Land: A Story Retold. It's the same story, but with a more reader-friendly writing-style, extra scenes, and more detailed characterization. It was written by James Stoddard, a contributor to the previously-mentioned fan site, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809183718/http://thenightland.co.uk/.
  • Schizo-Tech: Despite super-strong metals, electric Deflector Shields, Energy Weapons, and the like, men still fight monsters in armor and carrying a melee weapon rather than a gun. Aircraft used to exist, but the air has become too thin for them.
  • Science Is Useless: The narrator repeatedly derides scholars, portraying them as fools who debate endlessly and never achieve anything useful: "And so is it ever."
  • Science Marches On: When the book was written, scientists indeed believed the Sun would slowly fade, eventually beyond visibility. We now expect it to get very slowly brighter over the next few billion years, before swelling into a red giant and destroying the Earth. (Though after that it will eventually die back down).
    • Also, time scales; we now know the Earth's core will be completely cooled long before the sun runs down.
  • Square-Cube Law: The impossibly big Redoubts.
    • Only the Greater Redoubt, really; the Lesser is "only" 3/4 mile tall. Since Burj Dubai will be over 1/2 mile tall when completed, and given that it's made of a far stronger metal than anything on modern Earth, 3/4 mile isn't too tall to be believably self-supporting.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: The Giant Slug.
  • Time Skip
  • Unobtainium: the miraculous super-hard, super-strong grey metal.
  • Vibroweapon: the Diskos works on this principle, but rotating rather than a back-and-forth vibration. It can also provide light, occasionally leaning toward Laser Blade (well, Electric Blade, since this was written before lasers) territory. Possibly the Ur Example.
  • Wave Motion Gun: The blast of Earth-Current at the end of the novel used to take out the Night Hounds is one of these, with an emphasis on the 'slow recharge' - it uses up almost all of the energy of the Redoubt (a habitat holding millions) to the point where elevators, pumps, etc. shut down. These attacks are used VERY rarely, both because of the power drain and because there are just too many monsters, and some are way too powerful.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Redoubt has powerful weapons that can destroy many monsters at once. Unfortunately there are too many monsters, some of them are too big, and these weapons drain the all-important Earth Current.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Silent Ones are the only Night Land inhabitants that the hero doesn't feel hatred toward; instead, he views them as something to be respected, while at the same time feared and avoided. He even theorizes that they aren't even evil, just enigmatic and dangerous.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Actually 17th-century English, but still comically butchered.
  • Zerg Rush: The main reason the Night Hounds are The Dreaded.