Darker Than You Think

Jack Williamson
Darker Than You Think Cover

Darker Than You Think


I've been reading Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy masterworks this year. Jack Williamson is an author who often hits all these genres, and Darker Than You Think is a novel which nails all three.

Main character Will Barbee is a newspaper reporter and former student of anthropologist Dr. Mondrick. As the professor and his protégés are returning from a two year expedition, Barbee meets the mysterious red head April Bell. She knows little, allowing the author time to share the back story. Soon after, Mondrick and his students deplane with a strange crate of goods, and at a hastily arranged press conference the professor dies – a death aggravated by cat allergies.

This story reads like a screenplay, with rich descriptions of action and dialogue. Most characters are fairly flat, with Barbee and Bell the main focus of change here. While at times confusing, this wild adventure ride does eventually make it back to the station.

Dialogue scenes focus on describing Williamson's version of Lycanthropy, historically and environmentally. Not confined to merely the were wolf, we see tigers and snakes and all manner of mysterious beasts. I found this and the pseudo-science discussions of probability to be particularly creative in context of this tale.

My prior exposure to Jack Williamson was through short stories. I joined a SFF Book Club as a teen, and he was a popular author selection. The Science Fiction Writers of America named him their second Grand Master of Science Fiction in 1976. This novel is on both the list of Fantasy Masterworks and David Pringle's 100 Best Fantasy Novels. Wikipedia tells me there was a short story sequel penned by Poul Anderson and published in a Jack Williamson tribute in the 1990s. This is probably also worth a read.

I am glad I read this story, and will definitely read more Williamson in the near future. This story is a solid four star effort.