book reviews by Althea

Darker Than You Think – Jack Williamson ***

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Darker Than You Think
Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Read as part of the Retro Hugo Voters’ Packet – although it was disqualified as a nominee: “The finalist “Darker Than You Think” by Jack Williamson was mistakenly categorized as a novelette. The story is a novella, but did not receive enough nominations to be a finalist as a novella.”

Personally, I’d say this is definitely an actual novel – the pacing and structure give it that feel. It’s really not that short, either.

Wait… ah-ha!

“Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson, originally a novelette, was expanded into novel length and published by Fantasy Press in 1948. The short version was published in Unknown in 1940.”

I’m pretty sure that I actually read the 1948 novel-length version. (Because it kept not-ending. Not that it really dragged on, but I thought I was reading a short piece, and I wasn’t…)

Either way, I thought this would’ve made a great 1970’s or 1960’s horror film. It would sit on the shelf comfortably next to The Wicker Man and Rosemary’s Baby.

Journalist Will Barbee is ready to meet the returning members of an expedition to far-off lands. He’s sure that he’ll get the scoop on whatever their discoveries were, because it just so happens that he was college friends with the researchers. However, while waiting for them to meet the press, he finds himself next to a young woman, April Bell, who introduces herself as a budding journalist and is eager for him to give her professional tips. Barbee feels an intense mix of attraction and mysterious repulsion regarding the young woman. The press conference ends up being prevented due to a shocking tragedy – and Barbee’s feelings toward April begin to include a suspicion that she might somehow be guilty of a terrible crime. That doesn’t stop him from asking her out to dinner, though.

As events progress, we learn that whatever ancient secrets or artifacts were discovered on the expedition may be a threat to a modern cult of witches or other supernatural beings. Against his will, Barbee is drawn into diabolical doings…

Not bad; glad I read it.

I wouldn’t have voted for it to win a Hugo, however, mainly because it’s horror and not speculative fiction.
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