Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Short Review of The Voice in the Night, William Hope Hodgson

William Hope Hodgson writes Lovecraftian maritime fiction.  Only that's a crass, anachronistic statement since Hodgson, writing as early as 1904, was a significant influence on Lovecraft.  Hodgson knows his maritime stuff, having spent much of his career as a sailor and finding his death in a naval battle near Ypres.  And Hodgson knows how to write a weird tale.  The Voice in the Night is not about sea monsters, for not all that lurks in the world's faceless oceans kills with teeth or tentacles:
“Put away the light.”
“I’m damned if I will,” I muttered; but Will told me to do as the voice bade, and I shoved it down under the bulwarks.
“Come nearer,” he said, and the oar-strokes continued. Then, when apparently some half-dozen fathoms distant, they again ceased.
“Come alongside,” exclaimed Will. “There’s nothing to be frightened of aboard here!”
“Promise that you will not show the light?”
“What’s to do with you,” I burst out, “that you’re so infernally afraid of the light?”
“Because ——” began the voice, and stopped short.
“Because what?” I asked quickly.
Will put his hand on my shoulder.
“Shut up a minute, old man,” he said, in a low voice. “Let me tackle him.”
He leant more over the rail.
“See here, Mister,” he said, “this is a pretty queer business, you coming upon us like this, right out in the middle of the blessed Pacific. How are we to know what sort of a hanky-panky trick you’re up to? You say there’s only one of you. How are we to know, unless we get a squint at you — eh? What’s your objection to the light, anyway?” As he finished, I heard the noise of the oars again, and then the voice came; but now from a greater distance, and sounding extremely hopeless and pathetic.
“I am sorry — sorry! I would not have troubled you, only I am hungry, and — so is she.”
The voice died away, and the sound of the oars, dipping irregularly, was borne to us.
“Stop!” sung out Will. “I don’t want to drive you away. Come back! We’ll keep the light hidden, if you don’t like it.”
This is the best Hodgson tale I've read so far, short or long form.  It reveals its mysteries slowly and leaves the reader with a lasting image of sorrow.  Highly recommended for fans of Lovecraft and the old-fashioned maritime tale.

Read The Voice in the Night online here for free.

1 comment:

Jake Shore said...

OK, I'm sold. I'll read it and get back to you.