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The House on the Borderland
The House on the Borderland (1908) is a supernatural horror novel by British fantasist William Hope Hodgson. The novel is a hallucinatory account of a recluse's stay at a remote house, and his experiences of supernatural creatures and otherworldly dimensions.
American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft listed The House on the Borderland and other works by Hodgson among his greatest influences, and Terry Pratchett has called the novel "the Big Bang in my private universe as a science fiction and fantasy reader and, later, writer".
On the third day of their fishing holiday to the remote Irish village of Kraighten, Tonnison and Berreggnog stumble upon the ruins of a strangely shaped house on a large lake. They discover the mouldering journal of the Recluse, an unidentified man who recorded his last days in the house before its destruction.
The Recluse begins his journal with descriptions of how he acquired the house, along with his daily life with his sister and his faithful dog, Pepper. He started the diary to record the strange experiences and horrors occurring in and around the house. The Recluse relates a vision in which he travels to a remote and vast arena, "the Plain of Silence", surrounded by mountains with representations of mythological beast-gods, demons, and other "bestial horrors" on their slopes. In the center of the plain stands a house almost identical to his own, save that the house in the arena is much larger and appears to be made of a green jade-like substance. Along the way, he sees a huge, menacing humanoid with swine-like features.
Shortly after his vision of the "arena," the Recluse is attacked by humanoid pig-like creatures that he names "the swine-things", which appear to come from the depths of a great chasm under the house. The struggle with these creatures lasts for several nights of increasing ferocity, but the man kills several of the creatures and drives them off. As he searches for the origin of the swine-things, the man finds a pit beyond the gardens where a river descends into the earth. There he finds a tunnel leading to the great chasm. A rock slide dams the water in the pit. The man is trapped, but Pepper rescues him. The house transports the Recluse to an unknown place called "the Sea of Sleep" where he briefly reunites with his lost love.
Tonnison and Berreggnog must stop reading there as the house's collapse has destroyed much of the journal. Except for an enigmatic fragment, the book becomes unreadable between the passage describing "the Sea of Sleep" and a later entry titled "The noise in the night". They realise that the water from the dammed pit has overflowed to create the lake. They suppose that the destroyed section of the journal may have explained other mysteries about the house.
As the Recluse's story continues, he notices that the passage of day and night has increased in speed, eventually blurring into a never-ending twilight. As he watches, his surroundings decay and collapse to dust. The dead world slowly grinds to a halt and the sun goes out after several million millennia. Once the world ends, the man floats through space, seeing angelic, human, and demonic forms passing before his eyes. Later, he finds himself back in his own study on Earth, with everything apparently returned to normality, with one exception: Pepper is dead.
The malicious swine-beast from his earlier journeys to the "arena" has followed him back to his own dimension. The creature infects the man's new dog with a luminous fungal disease. Although the man shoots the suffering animal, he also contracts the disease. The manuscript ends with the man, by then partly covered by the fungal growth, locked (from the outside only) in his study as the creature comes through a trap door in the basement from the chasm under the house. As he ponders suicide to end his suffering, the creature tries to open the study door and the diary abruptly ends.
Tonnison and Berreggnog search for information about the man and his circumstances. They learn that the house was long believed to be evil before the unsociable old man and his elderly sister acquired it. Monthly supplies were brought in by a man who would say nothing about the Recluse. After several years, the man returned early one day from his delivery trip and said that the house had mysteriously fallen into the chasm. The two travelers leave Kraighten and never return. The novel ends with a five-verse poem titled "Grief", found behind the fly-leaf of the diary.
Literary significance and criticism
The book was a milestone that signalled a radical departure from the typical Gothic fiction of the late 19th century. Hodgson created a newer more realistic/scientific cosmic horror that left a marked impression on those who would become the great writers of the weird tales of the middle of the 20th century, particularly Clark Ashton Smith, and H. P. Lovecraft. David Pringle rated The House on the Borderland three stars out of four and called the novel a "frightening tale". Reviewing the book, Neil Barron called it "An imaginative tour de force whose power transcends its patchwork construction; the cosmic vision sequence makes it equally interesting as a scientific romance, but it definitely strikes what its admirer H. P. Lovecraft sought to define as "the true note of cosmic horror"."
This novel was first published in Britain by Chapman and Hall, Ltd. London in 1908. Its most popular version was by Arkham House Press, Sauk City, Wisconsin, in 1946 as part of The House on the Borderland and Other Novels, the same publishers that brought out many books by other authors of weird fiction, such as H. P. Lovecraft.
In 2000, DC Comics’ mature reader imprint Vertigo published a 96-page color graphic-novel adaptation The House on the Borderland, with story by Simon Revelstroke and art by Richard Corben. The book is available in soft and hardcover and contains an introduction by British comic writer Alan Moore. Revelstroke updated Hodgson's initial "manuscript discovery" frame to 1952 Ireland, and while he made an effort to retain most of the original plot and dialogue, excepting the very last page, the climax is purely Revelstroke's invention. In the credits, Revelstroke listed himself as a "Carnacki Fellow" currently "teaching at the Glen Carrig School of Nautical Horticulture", both direct (and fictional) references to Hodgson's other literary works. The adaptation was nominated for an International Horror Guild Award for Best Illustrated Narrative.
The English Doom metal band Electric Wizard featured the song "The House on the Borderland" on their Electric Wizard/Reverend Bizarre (2008) split EP.
The American Rock band Into Another featured the song "William" on their 'Ignaurus' (1994) album. The song expresses a feeling of camaraderie with "William" and includes the lyric: "truth lives in a house on the borderland".
As part of their debut EP Los Wattsons : Toma 1, the Spanish pop band, Los Wattsons, offered "La casa más allá del confín de la tierra", the lyrics and music of which strive to recreate the spirit of the Hodgson tale.
In 2007, BBC Radio released a two hour long, four episode dramatization of the novel.