Kuttner - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

The Dark World
Henry Kuttner
Public Domain Books
Fiction, Fantasy

DESCRIPTION: Edward Bond went mad during World War II... or so many believe. After being shot down, he spent months feverish and delusional, cared for by tribal witch-doctors before being returned to civilization. This scarcely-remembered time haunts him still, in dreams of dark pursuit and unknown enemies just beyond sight. One night, those fears become horribly manifest when a strange fire pulls him from Earth.
He wakes in the Dark World, with terrifying new memories clamoring to replace his own. Here, he is Lord Ganelon, the Chosen of the dark force Lyr, part of a powerful Coven of half-human monsters who rule with sorcery and blood. The Earth-man Edward Bond - brought to the Dark World when his plane crashed - had been rallying the free folk of the forests against the Coven. With Ganelon back, Edward has been returned to his own world, leaving the rebels leaderless. Yet some piece of Edward persists in Ganelon, even as the pull of Lyr draws him toward a destiny that might doom the whole of the Dark World.

REVIEW: First published in 1946 (though not released as a book until 1965), this old-school portal fantasy reads a little dated today, yet nevertheless entertains. By merging hero and villain in the twinned Edward/Ganelon, Kuttner (or possibly his wife, C. L. Moore, who co-wrote many of his tales) creates an interesting dynamic, an inner struggle clearly mirroring the battle for the future of the Dark World. The world itself blends old Earth legends with hints of science (if science twisted and blurred to the point of fantasy), drawing on time-honored legends and archetypes even as it creates its own original mythology. It moves fairly quickly, with enough twists and turns to make for a satisfying read. If the resolution feels a little convenient, and if the women are the sort of stereotypes usually reserved for pulp magazine covers... well, it was originally written for the pulp market. Those flaws bugged me just enough to cost it a half-star in the ratings, though it was a very close call. For the most part, I enjoyed it for what it was: a fast-reading adventure in a perilous fantasy world.

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