Today, thanks to the kind efforts of Chris Lohnes, we present a review of Hodgson’s The Dream of X. This review comes from the noted author Donald Sidney-Fryer and presents a different view than is generally heard regarding this work and The Night Land on which it was based.
(Donald Sidney-Fryer was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and has resided in California since he was 21 years old. He is a noted scholar, poet, bon-vivant, and world-traveler. This review, “The Dream of X, by William Hope Hodgson”, was first printed in Nyctalops, Number 14, March 1978. – Chris Lohnes)
William Hope Hodgson, The Dream of X:
A Creative Alternative to The Night Land
By Donald Sidney-Fryer
William Hope Hodgson. The Dream of X. Dustjacket, endpapers, decoration, and illustrations by Stephen Fabian. Donald M. Grant, West Kingston, Rhode Island, 1977. Pages, 140. Price, $15.00
This reasonably effective condensation of Hodgson’s vast and minutely narrated saga The Night Land comes to us, once again, by means of Donald M. Grant, of West Kingston, Rhode Island. If nothing else, it demonstrates that an author himself can do a much better and more sensitive condensation than those professionals who do condensations for, say, the Reader’s Digest et alia. The present reader personally found this novella, or novelette, version of The Night Land to be quite moving, but would we have done so without our memories of the complete version to fill the condensation in here and there, and to draw upon for a greater emotional resonance? We honestly don’t know. We only wish some enlightened publisher would issue the entire prose epic in a format as gorgeous as this that Donald Grant has made available to us.
Hodgson manages to give us much of the atmosphere of the original. We have here the description of the Great Redoubt, the super-pyramid in which most of humanity is concentrated in the extremely far future. Then we have the going-forth of the Hero to find the Lesser Redoubt and his Beloved, whom he has been seeking through aeons of evolution and incarnations; the wonderfully emotion-filled meeting of the lovers (this moved us to tears, as in the original); the peril-beset return to the Great Redoubt; the seeming death of the Beloved; her unexpected return to life; and then, at last, the final happiness of the lovers. The main narrative has of course been drastically reduced but it manages to convey something of the original’s mood of breathless expectancy. Stephen Fabian’s art is undoubtedly some of the best we have ever seen in a modern production of fantastic literature—he evidently has a strong sensitive identification with Hodgson – and the whole book is a marvelously sensitive edition de luxe, a veritable work of art as have been so many of Donald Grant’s productions, and certainly able to rank with some of the better products of both the Heritage Club and the Limited Editions Club of New York City. Considering that Grant has far more limited means than those publishers, his accomplishment seems to us all the more worthy and the more creditable.
As a romance, The Night Land is one of the most romantic romances imaginable, if not the ultimate romance in the most archetypal terms ever. Contrary to H. P. Lovecraft who considered it to be a clumsy archaic imitation, we have always found the style, qua style, in which Hodgson narrates it, to be both effective and highly original. Also, contrary to Lovecraft, we find the story of the lovers to be singularly moving, within the terms of “a love that is more than love” – of an extraordinary sentimentality beyond all other sentimentality – in the most Poesque sense conceivable. Without a doubt, Hodgson is one of the rare titans in the field of fantasy and science-fiction, and in the limited genre of the sustained fantasy novel of supernatural horror he has no true equal. We are indebted to Donald Grant for granting us this production, well worth every penny of the asking price.