Walking the Night Land: Nightland Racer

I didn’t expect to return to the Night Land so soon, but I found out about this one on Fenton Wood’s Twitter feed and bought it upon release about four months back.

Review: Nightland Racer, Fenton Wood, 2021. 

Cover by ESO/M. Kornmesser

Wood states, right up front, who influenced this novel beside William Hope Hodgson and his The Night Land: “John C. Wright, Gene Wolfe, Alfred Bester, A.E. van Vogt, Philip K. Dick, Jack Vance, J.G. Ballard, Larry Niven, Frank Herbert, Cordwainer Smith, Arthur C. Clarke, Roger Zelazny, H.G. Wells, Herman Melville, Tom Wolfe, and the SCP Foundation”.

Part of the fun of this novel is spotting all those influences which I think I did except for Herbert and van Vogt and the SCP Foundation whose work I am entirely unfamiliar with.

There are a few similarities in plot between Hodgson’s novel and this one. Both thrust a man into the distant future. Hodgson’s X is psychically projected into the future. The hero here is Reynard Douglas. Like his model, the real-life Junior Johnson, Douglas is a former moonshine runner turned race car driver who ran afoul of the law.

The book is something of an alternate history starting out in roughly 1984 when no less than the President shows up in person with a job offer for Douglas. They want a man to drive a vehicle into the Zone, an mysterious area that appeared years ago in the American Southwest and is expanding. (Wood credits Jon Mollison’s Barbarian Emperor as inspiration for the Zone.)

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