The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” (William Hope Hodgson)

61dVToe1r7L._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_Not unlike Arthur Machen, Hodgson is one of those classic weird writers I’ve been meaning to explore for a while; I’ve dipped into both in the past but not much. Here we have his first novel from 1907, after a career that had already encompassed a life at sea and then running a bodybuilding school (in which capacity he had an apparently legendary run-in with Harry Houdini, no less) and a handful of short stories. There’s a theory that this is technically actually the last of Hodgson’s four novels, and that he really wrote them in reverse order of publication; I don’t know the merits or otherwise of this argument, but something about it strikes me as unlikely and Boats certainly strikes me as an earlier rather than a later work. Fairly straightforward stuff; the survivors of a wrecked ship haul off in the lifeboats and find themselves in “the strange places of the Earth”, beset by tree-like monsters in one land, then run aground on another island where they encounter survivors of another trapped ship (plagued by the strange weed that pollutes the sea around them) but also some species of hideous (and hostile) amphibious humanoid. This is all fun for the most part, though I’m inclined to agree with Lovecraft who liked the book but was disappointed by the comparatively ordinary romance and adventure in the last part; Hodgson’s time as a sailor obviously informed the realism of the story, but it does also bog it down somewhat in pedantic detailing. And if the story is straightforward, the style is less so, presented as an 18th century manuscript and in an accordingly archaic style (which Lovecraft criticised, and to be fair he did know his 18th century literature), without dialogue and only minimal information about the characters; not until the last chapter do we even learn our narrator was a passenger on the Glen Carrig rather than crew. Still, the good stuff is good and I’m keen to check out Hodgson’s other novels…


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