This is the first Hodgson book I've been able to glomb onto, I pray it will not be the last. I've been awed, amazed, yes, and even slightly nauseated while reading this very entertaining tome. Albeit a sort of pleasing nausea, if there is such an animal! Personally, I believe Hodgson unsurpassed in the art of conjuring up word pictures and situations of dreadful suspense, deadly terror, and sheet horror. On the other hand he can dream up a fantasy which is at one both haunting and beautiful. The non-fantasy tales in this volume make interesting reading, if only for the odd and compelling Hodgson style.
ON THE BRIDGE, the first story in the volume, is a remarkable sketch, it's not quite a story, in which the thoughts and fears of a ship's officer, who is standing watch in iceberg waters, are startlingly passed to the reader.
In THE SEA HORSES, a wonderful narrative, Hodgson reveals a talent for beautiful fantasy. For some reason or other, this one persists in recalling "Mimsy Were the Borogroves" to my mind, although the only similarity between the two yarns is in the odd reasoning of children. Briefly, it is the story of a child's unerring faith in his beloved "granfer", who loves to relate tall sea yarns to his adored grandson. Nebby, the child, particularly loves the stories about sea horses, and he inveigles his granfer into a promise to catch him one. Granfer constructs a go-horse, a facetious combination of a unicorn, horse, and fish. He gives the 'sea horse' to Nebby, even going to the length of dipping it in water first, so the boy will know that he just brought it up from the bottom of the sea. When a fever epidemic breaks out in the village, granfer takes Nebby to live on the ship with him, and of course the 'sea horse' goes along. When Nebby persists in running his 'real live sea horse' over the air line while granfer is diving, one of the crew chides the boy and throws it down the hold. The boy bites the crewman in the leg, and, when he refuses to apologize, granfer takesthe horse from the boy and anchors it to some seaweed at the bottom of the sea. Granfer threatens the boy, telling him that if he isn't a good lad the 'sea horse' will come alive and swim away. Nebby hears his granfer tell one of the crew that he will bring the horse up on the morrow. This makes him very angry and he plots revenge. In the dead of night he slips on the heavy divers helmet and goes over the side to rescue his beloved 'sea horse' That is all I should tell you, except that the story has a swell fantasy ending, for it might just be possible to ride a sea horse?
MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED THE HOUSE OF PRAYER is a short tale in which a group of parishoners keep one of their members from being evicted from his humble dwelling, by unselfish and heart-warming means.
THE DERELICT brings forth the Hodgson that most slims are acwuainted with. This one was printed in Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Tis a horrible tale of an old derelict which is covered with a loathsome, living mold, until the whole ship becomes a living, integrated entity. And of the men who board this horrible pulsating mass, only to meet disaster.
THE CAPTAIN OF THE ONION BOAT is a curious story of an old sea Captain who was reported lost at sea. The Captain returns to find that his sweetheart has become a nun. How the lovers are finally re-united makes quite an interesting narrative.
In THROUGH THE VORTEX OF A CYCLONE we are shown the dread terror and ferocity of a cyclonic storm at sea.
The terrible loneliness of a man and a woman, doomed to spend the rest of their lives on a ship lost in the slimy, weed-choked vastness of the Sargasso Sea is passed on to the reader with amazing clarity while perusing FROM THE TIDELESS SEA. But the loneliness is but the lesser of the unearthly evils to be coped with. The stinking, putrid waters of the Sargasso Sea harbor creatures beyond human comprehension. The ship is attacked by gigantic octopi, killing all the crew except the man and the woman. At night weird noises surround the ship, and fear of the unknown takes command of the two lonely souls.
In the second story of this doomed couple, really a continuation of the first story, the ship is attacked by some sort of creature which inhabits the weed. I'll not spoil the story by telling you what it was. But I will say that these two yarns are two of the finest examples of the macabre I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
A VOICE IN THE NIGHT is a story that is amazingly similar to "Fungus Isle" which appeared in Famous Fantastic Mysteries.
THE MYSTERY OF THE DERELICT is a revolting yarn concerning a group of seamen who board an old derelict which, from all appearances, as it is surrounded by weed, must have drifted away from the Sargasso Sea. The men are attacked by giant rats. Their frantic escape through the sucking weed, with the rats swarming over the boat, presents the most godawful suspense imaginable.
In SHAMRAKEN HOMEWARD-BOUNDER we are allowed to peer into the minds of an aged crew on their last voyage. The Shamraken sails right into Heaven, or was it Heaven?
Upon re-reading the foregoing I find that I have overused such words as dreadful, terrible, horrible, revolting, and unearthly. But how else can one describe such a wonderful book? I'm going to have my copy rebound in the most Stygian black obtainable. Does that give you an idea?
A startling, macabreathtaking novel. Have you ever had the good fortune to read what you expected to be a conventional whodunit, only to discover one of the best weird yarns you'd ever read? Well, that's what happened when I read "Burning Court" The novel is Unknownish as all hell, with a But-Without-Horns-ish ending. The author pulls a trick I've never seen duplicated in world literature. He writes a conventional detective story, through to the last word of the last page of the book, then tags on an epilogue which changes the whole atmosphere of the story, thereby transforming a straight whodunit into a masterpiece of the weird. Don't pass this one up under any circumstances.
GREAT TALES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL--Edited by Fraser & Wise--Random House--$2.95.
Here is a weird collection to end all weird collections. Contains practically all the old standbys of weirs anthologists, and many new ones, plus two stories by Lovecraft. The book jacket is superb, and the book itself is one of the most attractive volumes I've ever seen. Over 1000 pages of weird classics. A must for collectors.
OUT OF THIS WORLD--Edited by Julius Fast--Penguin Books No. 537--25&$162;.
Swell collection of the weird, fantastic, and unusual. Contains a novel by Jack London, stories by Benet, Wells, Arthur, Bond, etc. Well worth two bits.
Data entry by Judy Bemis
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