Thursday, October 7, 2010

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: DARKER THAN YOU THINK!

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: DARKER THAN YOU THINK!

JACK WILLIAMSON

A classic tale from the 1940’s pulp Unknown, Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think might not be as scary as it was back in the day, but it is filled with cool stuff to which a lot of current fantasy novels owe a debt.

In many ways a precursor to today’s derivative urban fantasy genre, Darker Than You Think established many of the tropes and conventions associated with American lycanthropy legends.

DARKER THAN YOU THINK

Unsettling dreams begin for small-town reporter Will Barbee not long after he first meets the mysterious and beautiful April Bell. The dreams are vivid, powerful, and deeply disturbing nightmares in which Barbee commits atrocious acts – as well as dreams where he becomes different animals running free through the night.

The dreams also appear connected to the violent deaths of several of Barbee’s friends and associates. Is he going insane or is he embroiled in something far beyond human understanding, something unspeakably evil – an evil intimately involving the dangerously intoxicating April, and the question, 'Who is the Child of the Night?'

Despite the warnings of a murdered professor’s widow, the seductive charms of the mysterious April Bell are too much for Barbee to resist, leading him to answers that will make him wish he’d never been born.

Williamson published his first story in 1928, at the age of 20, and went on to write trail-blazing science fiction novels, including The Humanoids and The Legion Of Time. Williamson is the winner of the Pilgrim Award and the Horror Writers' Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also a Nebula Grand Master.

Despite an earnestness inherent in the writings of its time, Darker Than You Think is filled with shades of noir and the feeling of ideas being explored for the first time – a tasty slice of horror/fantasy history.

6 comments:

Bill Crider said...

I read that Lancer edition back in the early '60s, I think. Whenever I read it, it's a dandy tale.

George said...

Love the Emsh cover on that Lancer edition! Jack Williamson's work has surprising range.

Todd Mason said...

Actually, I'd say the novel hasn't ever been so much scary as engaging...UNKNOWN as a magazine specialized in the kind of contemporary or "low" fantasy that such bestselling writers of the day as Thorne Smith wrote, and "urban" fantasy today is basically the heir to much of the work published in UNKNOWN (later UNKNOWN WORLDS) and Dorothy McIllwraith's contemporary issues of WEIRD TALES...the magazines that launched Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Manly Wade Wellman, Margaret St. Clair, Jane Rice, Fritz Leiber, that whole crew onto the world.

bish8 said...

Todd: I think you're probably right. The novel certainly isn't scary by today's standards, but it is still an engrossing read. I often read older books with the time period in which they were written firmly in mind. I find it adds to the enjoyment and helps overcome what would be considered glitches in modern manuscripts...

bv said...

Gotta love that super-title, too, "The great novel that blends witchcraft with 20th century science!" I also love the stories Ray Bradbury tells about Williamson and how Bradbury would take his "terrible stories" over for Williamson to critique. Williamson was a great influence on many...

Evan Lewis said...

I've seen some great pulp covers from this guy's work, but never read a word.