THE DARK WORLD by Henry Kuttner
The Dark World by Henry Kuttner is a return, sort of, to the old sword and planet adventures written in science fiction for a number of years. To me, the genre had its beginnings in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars novels.
Edward Bond, the main character, has memories running around in his head of another place and time, and is constantly restless as a result. He’s a veteran of World War II, and the book is set a few years after that. He keeps hearing a silent call that he eventually answers and ends up in a place called the Dark World.
Only there’s a surprise. Edward Bond isn’t really Edward Bond. He’s a man named Ganelon who was one of the most villainous people in this world. His evil legacy is exactly why he was banished to Earth. This is a pretty novel idea, actually, and I was set up for a real tour de force.
Unfortunately, the novel never quite lives up to that promise. Back in the day (1946) the story probably lives up to a lot of readers’ expectations, especially with the curve thrown in. However, I wanted more world/character development, more direct action, and less narration.
Kuttner’s idea of alternate worlds wasn’t anything new in its day, but it was a whole lot newer than it is today. String theory hadn’t even been fleshed out (didn’t actually hit its peak until the 1990s), so this is progressive thinking for those days. The idea that the vampire and werewolf were mutants was probably new back then, and Kuttner does an okay job of trying to flesh that out.
Elements of quest fantasy stories stick out in this novel as well and kind of rock the boat overall. It was a diverting, quick read and allowed me to remember other series I read by Andre Norton and Marion Zimmer Bradley (Darkover) that came along shortly thereafter.