Wednesday, September 23, 2009

THE BOATS OF THE GLEN CARRIG

By William Hope Hodgson

William Hope Hodgson was a sailor who left the sea to run a physical fitness and health food store before he took up writing. His stories are filled with deeds of action, physical courage, and adventures at sea.

Boats of the Glen Carrig tells the adventures of a boat of castaway sailors shipwrecked near the Sargasso Sea in 1757. The narrator is a passenger of the Glen Carrig. He gives a dead-pan recitation of the strange events that befell the unfortunate seafarers. They find a rotting hulk in a creek on a nameless island where strange and unnatural things roam at night. It’s a place to make a ship-wrecked sailor long for the sea.

The castaways escape only to find themselves trapped in a continent of floating seaweed locked tight about another island. They battle monsters that creep about the forests of fungi at night. Around the island are more hulks of vessels entombed in the seaweed. Led by the clever and courageous boatswain, sailors fight tooth and nail to survive the horrors the encounter.

Boats of the Glen Carrig is a unique sort of book. It is crammed with Hodgson’s deep nautical lore and told in an Eighteenth-century style. The result is sometimes awkward and sometimes a bit overloaded with nautical terms. But for all that it may work a bit better, for it avoids the contrived style of a professional writer making up a crazy story and sounds like an old sailor telling a crazy story. At times I felt like I was hearing an echo of a Ray Harryhausen script channeled by an old salt. At other times I thought of the wildly improbably D&D scenarios of teenagers whose imaginations were fired with Coke and Doritos. The story has a na├»ve love of wonder and action that ranges from Lovecraftian horror to Howardian blood-lust.

Hodgson was a favorite of H.P. Lovecraft, I expect that Robert E. Howard would have liked his work too. Myself I truly enjoyed it. The story has a freshness that overcomes the occasional amateurishness. It is also part of a trilogy of sorts that includes The House on the Borderland and The Ghost Pirates. Boats of the Glen Carrig is a delightful, creepy, action-packed monster-story of a kind that you just don’t see anymore.

-Dave Hardy

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