A Box. A Cat. Dogs. Wolves. Genetics. Silver. Dreams. Psychoanalysis.
I can almost see the fog roll out of the pages of Darker than You Think by Jack Williamson. Originally published in 1948, it is vintage horror, combining fantasy, mystery, and just enough science to make it credible. The age of the novel adds to the enjoyment, making it easier for the reader to imagine eerie scenes.
Briefly, Will Barbee is a reporter, who was once a student of the anthropologist Dr. Mondrick. In the opening scene, Barbee is at an airport, waiting for Mondrick’s plane to touch down. There Barbee meets another reporter, a mysterious red head named April Bell. After Mondrick's plane lands, he begins to announce a startling discovery that will change the world — the contents of a mysterious box are his proof — but, he collapses and dies before he can complete the announcement. His colleagues whisk the box away and risk their lives protecting it. Barbee suspects that April is responsible for Mondrick’s death, but he feels more fascination than fear toward her. Soon, he begins to have strange dreams in which he is transformed and is accompanied by a white, female wolf. When some of the details of the dreams are confirmed in his waking life, he searches for the truth. What is inside the mysterious box, and what does it have to do with him?
I am not a fan of horror, but I thoroughly enjoyed Darker than You Think. It is fast paced, has interesting characters, and, although I suspected what would happen in the end, kept me guessing. I also have a tremendous respect for Williamson, who helped blaze a trail for modern horror writers.