Friday, June 19, 2009

The 10 best apocalypse novels of pre-golden age SF

Joshua Glenn, at io9, named the years 1904-33 SF's Pre-Golden Age, and came up with the era's "ten great novels of the apocalypse."

One book on the list:
William Hope Hodgson, The Night Land: A Love Tale (1912). Hodgson, a British sailor, strongman, and visionary, paints a macabre, fascinating portrait of a frozen future Earth whose few remaining human inhabitants live in a vast underground space created by earthquakes, lit by the glare of lava bubbling up from below, and inhabited by dinosaurs. Worse, at some point in the distant past, overreaching scientists breached "the Barrier of Life" that separated our dimension from one populated by "monstrosities and Forces" - Watching Things, Silent Ones, Hounds, Giants, "Ab-humans," Brutes, enormous slugs and spiders - collectively known as the Slayers. (At least one of them, as far as I can tell from the 1972 Ballantine paperback cover shown here, resembles Pac-Man.) The unnamed narrator, along with apparently every other surviving human, lives trapped in the Last Redoubt, a eight-mile-high metal pyramid-city constructed by their ancestors using now-forgotten technologies. The pyramid is protected from the Slayers, who surround and observe it constantly, by mysterious Powers of Goodness, and also by a massive force-field powered by the "Earth Current" - a Tesla-esque force drawn from the planet itself. Our hero is telepathic, and one day he receives a distress signal that appears to issue from a woman living in a long-forgotten community of humans sequestered in a distant Lesser Pyramid whose power supply is running out. Arming himself with a lightsaber-meets-brushcutter gizmo called a Diskos, and eating nothing but protein pills and powdered water, he sets forth on a mission impossible - into the Night Land.
Read about all ten books on Glenn's list.

--Marshal Zeringue