Let’s admit it – of all the possible editions of Jack Williamson’s Darker than you think, I own the one with the suckiest cover.
It’s a fact, as you’ll see form the other images illustrating this post.
Fact is, I’ve been contacted by a friend, that asked me whether I was planning a post on Jack Williamson science-fantasy masterpiece. Which surprised me somewhat, as I was absolutely certain I had posted on this novel already.
But I was wrong.
False memories and all that.
So, to make up for my omission, I’m posting about Darker than you think both here and on my Italian blog.
It’s about a 1948 novel featuring werevolves, naked women and a sabretooth tiger. We can’t go wrong with that, right?
Originally written as a novelette in 1940 in Unknown, Darker than you think was later expanded to a novel. The plot shows the classic rationalized fantasy which Unknown published, telling us a secret history of the war between a shapeshifting species of Homo lycantropus and plain vanilla Homo sapiens. We H. sapiens have been winning so far, thanks to a massive repression, but recently the werewolves have started regrouping. They have undermined our resolve by promoting rationalism and skepticism, and are eagerly waiting for the Child of the Night that will lead them to victory.
And we see all this through the eyes of a journalist, Will Barbee, investigating the mysterious death of an ethnographer just back from Mongolia, and the equally mysterious, and alluring, April Bell.
Williamson’s book is good, despite some elements that have not aged well – the references to psychoanalysis – and some evident padding of the plot to make it novel-length.
Will Barbee is a somewhat lame protagonist, and we can see where this story is going from page 15 or thereabouts, but Williamson’s enthusiasm, and his ideas carry us along to the finale, and a fun ride it is. It does have a psaeudo-scientific angle on the whole werebeasts and sorcery stuff, and as some critics pointed out, Williamson is striving to go beyond pure pulp entertainment. He sort-of makes it. And yet there is on one hand such a cheerful support of evil – we all root for the bad guys by the end – and on the other such a powerful presentation of the wild side of human nature, that the book is well worth a reading.