Nowadays critics like to talk about the “New Weird”. Me, I’m still getting a handle on the Old Weird. A good place to grab it seems to be at The House on the Borderland.
The book is the second of William Hope Hodgson’s trilogy of dislocation, survival, and doom. The first was The Boats of the Glen Carrig. Like its predecessor, House on the Borderland also employs a first person narrator. But instead of being castaway in a boat at sea, the narrator is trapped in his own home adrift in time itself.
The nameless narrator tells how he came tot he house to live with sister in a remote part of Ireland. He soon finds that he has terrifying experiences. Whether they are dreams, insane delusions, or real journeys is never quite clear, but the narrator finds himself hurled through space and time to an amphitheater under the last dying sun. Giant forms of animal headed gods watch as the narrator battles hideous pig-beings, the last human fighting for survival in front of his home which has traveled too.
Just as quickly the narrator is whirled back to his own time where the pig-beings have broken through to besiege his home. While his sister is mysteriously absent, the narrator and his faithful dog Pepper battle the pig-beings on our own plane. Then things get really weird.
The narrator explores the cellars of his home and a strange pit on his property, all the while he is subject to attacks of time-slippage where he lives millions of years seemingly in a moment. The end of the Earth becomes a familiar sight.
House on the Borderland is a very strange story. Often Hodgson’s love of bizarre imagery overwhelms the pace of the narrative. Critics will find a cornucopia of material for Freudian, Jungian or other forms of analysis. But readers do get to some memorably weird places, which is the point after all.