“This to be Love, that your spirit to live in a natural holiness with the Beloved, and your bodies to be a sweet and natural delight that shall be never lost of a lovely mystery…. And shame to be unborn, and all things to go wholesome and proper, out of an utter greatness of understanding; and the Man to be an Hero and a Child before the Woman; and the Woman to be an Holy Light of the Spirit and an Utter Companion and in the same time a glad Possession unto the Man…. And this doth be Human Love….”
The Sun has died. The remaining millions of the human race have moved downward into deep ravines, where vulcanism still provides enough heat to keep the air in a breathable form. Humanity's survivors live on in a few pyramidal Redoubts, lit, heated, and defended by the mysterious Earth Current. They await the inevitable day when the Current fails and the monsters gathering outside swarm their defences.William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land was first published in 1912. On the most basic level, it's a heroic fantasy in which the Knight in Shining Armorbraves terrible monsters and overcomes formidable challenges to rescue the Distressed Damsel. In practice, its main appeal is not the somewhat tedious hero's quest, but the vividly-described and extraordinarily imaginative creatures and horrors of the Land itself, prompting H. P. Lovecraft to describe it as "one of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination ever written" even in the face of its ludicrous pseudo-17th-century writing style.The complete work is available here at Project Gutenberg.
This book provides examples of:
Adaptation Distillation: The Dream of X, which Hodgeson himself wrote in order to secure its copyright in America, compresses the original 200 000-word novel into a mere 20 000 words.
After the End: Several ends: the cataclysmic explosion that blew a 100-mile-deep valley into the Earth; the experiments that let the soul-eating Eldritch Abominations get to Earth; the death of the Sun.
Armor Is Useless: Averted - the narrator states several times that only his armor saved him from severe injury or death.
Arcology: The story has an early version of this in The Great Redoubt (more than 7 miles high, holds millions of people) and The Lesser Redoubt (more than a mile high). They're both sealed off from the outside world by necessity and are completely self-sufficient.
Author Appeal: Hodgson had much to say on bodybuilding, domination, submission, and gender roles, and it shows.
Berserk Button: The narrator, when his love-interest Naani is attacked and put into a coma to the point where she is thought to be dead; he runs for 3 days without sleeping to bring her to safety, slashing giants and mutants out of his way. He even cuts a clawed giant in two with a single, one-handed swipe.
Fanfic: Numerous works are collected at http://www.thenightland.co.uk, including many of high quality. Unfortunately a number of them are only partially online, requiring you to buy a printed collection to read the end.
Foregone Conclusion: Averted. Even though the hero is narrating his own story, said story is about a dream he had of something that will happen to him in the future; therefore, until the ending, the reader has no way of knowing whether the hero will survive or not.
God: No joke. You would think that a post-sun death universe where reincarnation, Eldritch Abominations and Psychic Powers are a fact of life would be pretty alien to the notion of Yahweh, but the narrator tells us that men of our age should be "thankful unto God" that we live in the Days of Light and not the Night Land. The powers that defend the Redoubt from their enemies are vaguely defined and could be interpreted as God or angels providing protection.
Several of the Night Land expanded universe stories also deal with God, where he's referred to as "the One who makes sure all Lovers are reunited."
Half-Human Hybrid: The Giants are an extremely unpleasant type, between unspecified monsters and 'bestial humans'.
Nothing Is Scarier: The fact that the Hero doesn't know exactly what happens to the red shirts after they enter the House of Silence freaks him out all the more. It gets to the point that the noises of the other abominations become a comforting distraction.
Prehistoria: The Country of Seas and Volcanoes is based off of popular ideas of the time about the prehistoric world (the idea being that similar conditions produce similar creatures)
Psychic Powers: A form of telepathy using "brain-elements". The text is unclear as to whether these elements are natural parts of the brain or some kind of implant.
Ragnarok-Proofing: There are aircraft which would still work, except that the air has gotten too thin to support them - they've remained in functional condition for hundreds of thousands or millions of years.
Schizo Tech: Despite super-strong metals, electric Deflector Shields, Energy Weapons, and the like, men still fight monsters in armor and carrying a melee weapon rather than a gun. Aircraft used to exist, but the air has become too thin for them.
Possibly justified in that most those inventions run off the "earth current", which may not exist outside of the redoubts. The Diskos (basically a chainsaw on a stick) presumably uses much less energy than a laser rifle.
Contact with Lesser Redoubt is lost for millennia until two telepaths happen to live in the two Redoubts, just like The Hero never attempts to broadcast any sort of info back home. Shouldn't an advanced humanity have radio?
Science Marches On: When the book was written, scientists indeed believed the Sun would slowly fade, eventually beyond visibility. We now expect it to get very slowly brighter over the next few billion years, before swelling into a red giant and destroying the Earth. (Though after that it will eventually die back down).
Also, time scales; we now know the Earth's core will be completely cooled long before the sun runs down.
Only the Greater Redoubt, really; the Lesser is "only" 3/4 mile tall. Since Burj Dubai will be over 1/2 mile tall when completed, and given that it's made of a far stronger metal than anything on modern Earth, 3/4 mile isn't too tall to be believably self-supporting.
Unobtainium: The miraculous super-hard, super-strong grey metal.
Vibroweapon: The Diskos works on this principle, but rotating rather than a back-and-forth vibration. It can also provide light, occasionally leaning toward Laser Blade (well, Electric Blade, since this was written before lasers) territory. Possibly the Ur Example.
Wacky Wayside Tribe: Most of the enemies the hero faces seem to be these. Justified due to the sheer hostility of the setting.
Wave Motion Gun: The blast of Earth-Current at the end of the novel used to take out the Night Hounds is one of these, with an emphasis on the 'slow recharge' - it uses up almost all of the energy of the Redoubt (a habitat holding millions) to the point where elevators, pumps, etc. shut down. These attacks are used VERY rarely, both because of the power drain and because there are just too many monsters, and some are way too powerful.
Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Redoubt has powerful weapons that can destroy many monsters at once. Unfortunately there are too many monsters, some of them are too big, and these weapons drain the all-important Earth Current.
Worthy Opponent: The Silent Ones are the only Night Land inhabitants that the hero doesn't feel hatred toward; instead, he views them as something to be respected, while at the same time feared and avoided. He even theorizes that they aren't even evil, just enigmatic and dangerous.