Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Dark World by Henry Kuttner

The Dark World by Henry Kuttner was originally published in 1946. Although it is still not widely known there are enough of us around interested in Kuttner’s work that it was reprinted by Paizo for their Planet Stories series of reprints. With a plot that mirrors A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (at least at the onset), The Dark World is about Edward Bond, a World War II airman who finds himself transported to an alien world where he shares the body of his identical twin from an alternate dimension, the evil wizard Ganelon. Told entirely with a first person narrative, Bonds travails are fantastic and implausible and very much like the pulp fiction it was meant to be, except better. The writing is imagistic, packed with verbs, laced with action, and ultimately highly entertaining. For those interested in literary trivia this book influenced Roger Zelazny when he began his famous “Amber” novels and astute readers will recognize a similar cynical and world-weary tone in the narrator’s voice, among other superficial resemblances. The Dark World may be Kuttner’s best and there is a modest revival and appreciation of Kuttner’s work today. Contrary to what some bloggers have stated when reviewing this book, The Dark World is NOT heroic fantasy. This is hardcore noir science-fantasy with a plot that chainsaws wildly. The action is plentiful and the ending is perfunctory as befits a pulp fiction adventure story. One of my favorites, if you haven’t read any of Henry Kuttner’s books this is a great place to start.

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