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Feel You In My Blood

Darker Than You Think

By Jack Williamson 

20 Aug, 2023

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


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Jack Williamson’s 1948 Darker Than You Think is a stand-alone anthropological horror novel. It’s an expansion of the 1940 novella of the same title.

Reporter Will Barbee waits at Clarendon’s new municipal airport. He is expecting Dr. Lamarck Mondrick of the Humane1 Research Foundation, along with his team of researchers. They are returning from a research trip in post-war Central Asia. Barbee is eager to report on his former mentor’s discoveries.

Unfortunately for Will and even more unfortunately for the scientist, Will is not alone. The ravishingly beautiful April Bell is a reporter for a rival paper. She may be a killer!

Warning: Newbery Award-levels of animal carnage.

Mondrick survives only long enough to utter portentous warnings about his ominous discovery. Before Mondrick can explain what he found, the unfortunate scientist succumbs to a fatal asthma attack. Mondrick dies on the tarmac.

Mondrick was triggered by cat dander. What would a cat be doing at an airport press conference? Barbee has his suspicions: he knows for a fact that April Bell had a kitten in her purse.

There is reason to believe that April brought the kitten along to kill Mondrick. (She is unaffected when it dies suddenly, which suggests that it’s a means rather than an end.) On the other hand, April is bewitchingly beautiful. Therefore, Will keeps what he knows to himself while pursuing a closer relationship with her.

Will was a former mentee of Mondrick’s before Mondrick expelled him from the team for reasons the old man would not explain. Hence Will knows and is friends with Mondrick’s subordinates: Sam, Nick Spivak, and Rex Chittum. Will is also on friendly terms with Mondrick’s blind wife Rowena. Over the course of the novel, Will discovers the dreadful revelation Mondrick was determined to broadcast before his untimely death.

Long ago, glaciers isolated two groups of hominids in Asia [2]. One gave rise to modern Homo sapiens. The other survived by developing prodigious mental powers. Believing this second race is the source of all shapeshifter myths, Mondrick dubbed them Homo lycanthropus.

Once, Homo lycanthropus dominated all the other humans on Earth. The subject races tired of the abuse to which they were subjected. Homo lycanthropus was vanquished thanks to weapons now lost to time … except for the relic Mondrick and company found in the desert.

Homo lycanthropus would be extinct save for the second dreadful fact Mondrick discovered: the two species of human interbred, and every human on Earth carries at least a few Homo lycanthropus genes. From time to time, throwbacks appear. Some are merely amoral sociopaths, destined for prison. Others, like April, are amoral sociopaths with powers beyond human ken.

The throwbacks are determined to restore Homo lycanthropus to Earth. Therefore, they have been carefully breeding more of their kind. Generations of effort have produced the Child of the Night who will lead Homo lycanthropus back to global dominance … if Mondrick’s survivors do not expose the plot.

Friendship and basic decency demand that Will help his former colleagues to save humanity. Too bad for humanity that Will is under April’s spell. She claims that Will is himself a throwback. It’s a dubious sounding claim … except that every night Will has lurid, violent dreams about killing his friends and every day when he awakes, another one of his former friends has died violently.


The characters in this novel are curiously well-informed about events more than a hundred thousand years ago. This is coupled with a desire to expound on what they know, a loquacity that a Poul Anderson character would envy.

My copy of this is a 1969 Berkley paperback, which I purchased in Huntsville, Ontario in August, 1979. I still have a hotel card that I used for a bookmark.

The purchase made an impression on me because this was the camping trip during which I crushed two fingers under a large rock. Of course, I used the interval between arriving at emergency and going home to track down a used bookstore.

Readers may ask why the research team didn’t go to the press. Humanity’s secret enemies have used their powers to control important institutions. Stories about Mondrick are heavily edited or don’t run at all. I wonder what resonances a story about a secretive cabal preying on and scheming against humans had when this was first published, as a short story, in 1940? Although the text makes it clear that, to the degree human authorities were aware of the throwbacks, they saw them as witches.

Darker Than You Think first appeared in Unknown Magazine, John W. Campbell, Jr.’s (often dark) fantasy magazine. It’s probably not surprising, therefore, that the story reads as though Williamson stood one of Campbell’s obsessions on its head. Sure, psychic powers exist, and yes, a small elite armed with them could in theory do for modern Earth what the Second Foundation was going to do for the Galactic Empire. However, where in Astounding this might be hailed as the triumph of human potential, Darker Than You Think presents this development as apocalyptic, because every member of Homo lycanthropus is either easily swayed or EEEvil with a capital EEE.

Teen me didn’t much enjoy this book, particularly the manner in which Will spends most of the book as a hapless tool of Team Evil and the fact that he never does manage to overcome his dreadful heritage. It would be easy to blame my reaction on the circumstances — being in pain or under the influence of painkillers is such a distraction — but in fact I enjoyed the other book I purchased at the used bookstore. In retrospect, the flaw was failing to appreciate the extent to which this is a horror novel. Revelations are never happy and neither are the endings. Rereading the novel as a noir horror novel was more enjoyable.

Darker Than You Think is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), and here (Barnes & Noble). Chapters-Indigo appears to have only the audio book.

1: Not a typo.

2: The book’s theory of human origins conflicts with the out-of-Africa theory now considered just a fact. It wasn’t a fact in 1948 when this book was published. However, it was considered a serious enough contender that the book takes the time to rule it out.

Still, there is an interesting parallel between the revelation about H. lycanthropus genes and the discovery than many modern humans have Neanderthal and Denisovan genes (although people discovering today they have Neanderthal lineage tend to be thrilled rather than reacting as Will does, like a New Englander discovering he might be part Italian).

Re other exploded theories: at one point Will sees Mondrick’s maps, which detail the different coastlines and vanished land masses of the geologic past.” I wondered if this referenced sea level rise or if Williamson had caught wind of Alfred Wegener’s work. Then I read on and found references to Atlantis and Lemuria and saw a third possibility that I hadn’t even considered.