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Literature / Awake in the Night Land

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Are you Prepared to venture Out?
Awake in the Night Land is a book that collects four loosely connected stories, by Science Fiction author John C. Wright, set in the world of William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land. It is available on Amazon and in a DRM-free version from Castalia House.

It is set in the distant future when the Sun has gone out and the world is in an eternal night. Lurking in the darkness there are fearsome monsters who not only can kill the body but also Destroy the soul. The last millions of humans now live in the Last Redoubt, which is a miles high pyramid powered by the Earth Current, a mysterious source of energy that also has some spiritual properties and can keep the Powers of the Night away from the Redoubt.

The book tells the tale of the Last Redoubt of Man and the end of the human race. The stories are:

  • Awake in the Night (circa A.D. 21,000,000): Telemachos is driven to rescue his best (and only) friend Perithoos, who was thought to have been killed in the Night Land on a mission.
  • The Cry of the Night-Hound (circa A.D. 22,000,000): The heroine Antigone sets Out in the Night in order to rescue her brother Polynices, who thought that that the night-hounds could be domesticated. He violated the law by bringing to the Redoubt two night-hound pups in the hope of training them.
  • Silence of the Night (circa A.D. 25,000,000): The end of mankind is closer than ever, and Aeneas receives a vision from the future to give him information that can allow mankind to have a few more thousands of years of sane existence, but at the cost of preventing an entire civilization from ever coming to be. Aeneas has to set out to the Night Land in order to retrieve the remnants of his father. This is the darkest tale of the book, which by Night Land standards is saying something.
  • The Last of All Suns (circa A.D. ten decillion vigintillionnote  - The End of Eternity): The characters are "lost in endless and titanic halls of windowless metal". A million men are resurrected from the Archive, and wander those halls, and encounter the beasts and Powers of the Night Lands until only 8 remain. Among them is Captain Powell, the narrator. If the previous story was the darkest, this one is the brightest, culminating with the ultimate defeat of the Powers of the Night by the hands of God himself.

This book provides examples of:

  • A Light in the Distance: The Last Redoubt itself in the Night Land and the Good Powers that sometimes help the adventurers.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The Earth Current, which can power The Last Redoubt, can be weaponized against the evil hordes of the Night Land, can repel evil, and has spiritual properties.
  • Arc Welding: The Last of All Suns makes a link between The House on the Borderland and The Night Land, by stating that the titular house of the former is somehow tied to the House of Silence of the latter.
  • Author Tract: Averted. John Wright is capable of following the internal logic of the story to wherever it leads, regardless of his personal views. For instance, Silence in the Night has an atheistic and nihilistic theme even though he wrote it after he became a Christian, while The Last of All Suns has a religious and spiritual theme even though he was an atheist when he wrote it.
  • Always Night: The Sun has gone out millions of years ago, and the setting is illuminated only by residual volcanic activity.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: People who venture Out to the Night Land have a capsule on their arms that they can bite and kill themselves, should they ever be about to have their soul Destroyed by the Powers of the Night. This way they still can come back by reincarnation.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The House of Silence, which is shown in The Last of All Suns.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Silence of the Night ends this way, coming very close to a Downer Ending. Aeneas fulfills his mission, but at the cost of having to Destroy the soul of his own father and dooming a lot of people to never being born.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: A common theme with things that have to to with the Night Land. Adventurers do not go out to the night, they go Out to the Night. Before that they have to get themselves Prepared and during their adventures they must take care to not be Destroyed.
  • Cessation of Existence: Implied to be the case when one's soul is Destroyed by the Powers of the Night, or at most it just causes the person to not reincarnate again. In Silence of the Night, Aeneas' messenger from the future stated that the seers of his time found nothing when they attempted to peer into mankind's future.
  • Citadel City: The Last Redoubt of Man.
  • Compilation Rerelease: A non-videogame example. All the four stories were previously published elsewhere separately, but this is the first time that they are compiled together.
  • Covers Always Lie: Justified in order to make a more appealing cover. The Last Redoubt is stated to be a featureless pyramid, but the editor asked for the pyramid to look like a mayan one, so such prominent object of the cover wouldn't look bland. Also the cover artist took some artistic licence to make the scene brighter than what it should, because otherwise the cover would be mostly pitch black.
  • Crapsack World: As if the world being stuck in eternal darkness wasn't enough, it is also populated by Lovecraftian horrors who can Destroy the soul.
  • Cyanide Pill: Everyone who sets Out to the Night has one implanted on the arm, so in emergencies they can bite it before The Powers of The Night Destroy their soul.
  • Determinator: The main character of each one of the four stories:
    • Awake in the Night: Telemachos goes Out to rescue his friend, even though everyone thinks he is dead.
    • The Cry of the Night-Hound: Everyone thinks that Polynices is dead for good, but Antigone thinks that he can live again if she brings back his body. It turns out that she was wrong, but her determination made he to reincarnate within her lifetime so they ended up meeting again.
    • Silence in the Night: Aeneas has to venture Out, rescue his father and prevent a Fate Worse than Death for mankind.
    • The Last of All Suns: It is literally the end of times and Powell has to prevent the Powers of the Night from entering in the next Universe.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Diskos. They are tuned to the soul of the wielder and can selectively harm only the creatures of the Night.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: In Awake in the Night, the mural carvings in Usire implies that mankind is the last remnant of organic life in the whole Universe. The Last of All Suns outright confirms this, and also implies that the reason the Powers of the Night spared Earth was so they could torment the humans.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Mankind was able to predict eons ago the exact date in which the Last Redoubt will fall (A.D. 25,050,000), when the Earth Current will fail (A.D. 25,550,000), and when humans will be extinct (A.D. 28,000,000).
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Last of All Suns, which takes place in the final moments of the Universe.
  • Exact Words / Screw Destiny: In Awake in the Night the prophecies tell that after the rescue attempt of Perithoos by Telemachos only one pair of footprints is seen returning to the Last Redoubt. Telemachos deals with this by carrying Perithoos on his shoulders back to the Last Redoubt.
  • Expanded Universe: This book is respectful to the world created by William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land, while it also expands and continues its mythos.
  • Fan Sequel: The author John C. Wright is a big fan of The Night Land.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Destruction of the human soul, which can be caused by the Powers of the Night.
  • Fluffy Tamer: The premise of The Cry of the Night Hound, in which Polynices tries to domesticate a couple of Night-Hounds.
  • Foreshadowing: Early in the book, Awake in the Night mentions prophecies who tell about the arrival of the Messenger of Time and about a voice after the destruction of mankind. The Messenger is Aeneas from Silence of the Night while the voice is God himself in The Last of All Suns.
  • Food Pills: People who venture Out to the Night Land carry them.
  • For the Evulz: The Powers of the Night need no justification to torment mankind, they do this out of sheer malice.
  • God: Implied to be the Good Powers that help people Out in the Night. Also makes an appearance in the final battle of The Last of All Suns.
  • Grand Finale: The Last of All Suns is one to the Night Land mythos, ultimately ending with The Powers of the Night being kept from entering the next Universe.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In The Cry of the Night-Hound, it is suggested that Draco, one of the two night-hounds of Polynices, had one before it was killed.
  • Help Yourself in the Future: In The Last of All Suns, the protagonist Powell is actually teaming up with multiple reincarnations of himself.
  • Hive Mind: By the time of Silence of the Night, mankind has evolved to the point to have one (at least within the limits of The Last Redoubt).
  • I Know Your True Name: It is the reason why the Powers of the Night get names based on their attributes rather than proper nouns, otherwise they would get the power of invading the thoughts of the humans.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: The Diskos, which are like axes with a circular saw in the place of the blade. They are powered by the Earth Current and are tuned to the soul of their respective user so no other person can use. Also they apparently have some form of will as they avoid to harm humans, but are very effective against the creatures of the Night. See it for yourself.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: In The Cry of the Night-Hound, when Polynices tell his sister Antigone that he plans to domesticate Night-Hounds, they are interrupted by an ominous laughter echoing from The Country Whence Comes The Great Laughter. She notes that this was more fitting than any answer she could give.
  • Just Before the End: Silence in the Night takes place just before the fall of the Last Redoubt. The Last of All Suns goes even further, starting just as the universe is dying.
  • Legendary in the Sequel: The hero of The Night Land, Andros, and his lover Mirdath the Beautiful became legends in the present book.
  • Life Energy: The Earth Current, which not only can power machines but also have some mystical properties.
  • Lost Technology: Eons pass between the stories, and some of the technology of one story is already lost by the time of the next one.
  • Lovecraft Lite: The setting as a whole would be deep in Cosmic Horror Story territory if not for the last story, where God outright intervenes to provide a Happy Ending of sorts to the saga.
  • Meaningful Name: The Powers of the Night get names based on their attributes, like "The Thing That Nods", "The Silent Ones" or "The Great Watching Things".
  • Mordor: The Earth itself. The entire planet is in darkness, the oceans have evaporated and the land is lit by residual volcanic activity.
  • Oblivious to Love: Captain Powell recounts how he had asked his future wife to pretend to be his fiancee.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: The Earth Current is capable of repelling The Powers of the Night, but its exact date of failure is prophesied, which will ultimately lead to the extinction of mankind.
  • Reincarnation: In this setting people who died, but did not have their soul Destroyed, come back by reincarnating in a future era.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The book has stories all along the scale. From the most cynical to the most idealistic: Silence of the Night, The Cry of the Night-Hound, Awake in the Night, The Last of All Suns.
  • Star Killing: Because the original novel was based on now-disproved scientific theories, Wright offers a new explanation for the Sun and other stars going dark-they were snuffed out by Eldritch Abominations.
  • The Lifestream: The Earth Current allows people who die close to it to reincarnate, possibly by carrying their souls.
  • The Morlocks: The Abhumans, who are prophesied to eventually replace the humans.
  • The Power of Love: A common theme in all the four stories, though each one deals with a different kind of love:
    • Awake in the Night: the love between friends.
    • The Cry of the Night-Hound: the love between siblings.
    • Silence of the Night: the love between son and father.
    • The Last of all Suns: romantic love and the love of God.
  • Time Skip: In the last couple of chapters of The Cry of the Night-Hound, when Antigone is sentenced to live the rest of her days in an abandoned city of the Redoubt. After some decades a boy, who is her brother Polynices reincarnated, came to rescue her.
  • Ultimate Lifeform: The Last Child, who is the human who's reached the peak of evolution. However, as the name suggests, he is also the last one of the human race.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: At the climax of The Cry of the Night Hound, The Last Redoubt used a powerful blast of Earth Current in order to destroy a horde of beasts from the Night Land who were trying to break into the Redoubt.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: The Last of All Suns has Abraxander The Threshold, who has the power of making things that people remember real. Later, the protagonist Powell discovers that he is the one who has this power, and that he was possibly just creating from his mind most of the other people who were with him.