Henry Kuttner is one of those names that has fallen into obscurity, and that’s too bad. In his short life, he produced some excellent work. And when he married C.L. Moore, the two of them together were even better. It is thought that Moore worked with him on this book, though she isn’t credited. Both writers are very much worth tracking down and reading, and sifting through their ridiculous number of pen names.
With The Dark World, Kuttner has presented a classic Sword & Sorcery story, but twisted it by making the whole thing a secret Science Fiction story, which I love. I’ve done something similar with my Conquest of the Sphere stories, which seem like Fantasy on the surface, but are very much Science Fiction at heart. This is the story of Ganelon…or is he Edward Bond, alternate versions of one being who have hopped between worlds and blended memories. How will this man of Earth, Bond, survive in the Dark World, a world of mutants, strange powers, and weird science? Or is he Bond at all? Ganelon was a powerful and evil sorcerer, and his memories seem almost as strong.
There’s a great cast of characters, a very interesting world, and some cool ideas. The plot is brisk, the twists are unexpected, and the finale is interesting. It’s too bad that Kuttner (or Moore) never returned to this setting, as there seems to be more that could be explored. Apparently, it was one of the major inspirations for Roger Zelazny’s Amber books.
There are times it’s hard to believe it was written in 1946. Aspects of it feel very contemporary. If it wasn’t for the fact that the book is fairly short, it wouldn’t be out of place on bookstore shelves today. Fantasy and Science Fiction fans should definitely check it out. And check out more books by Kuttner & Moore.