Michael Wood writes:
One of Peake’s fiercest and most brilliant pieces of writing is his short story ‘Boy in Darkness’, which has the incidental advantage of helping us see what the looming castle-world of the Gormenghast novels is and is not. The story, reprinted in Peake’s Progress, first appeared alongside stories by John Wyndham and William Golding in 1956, in a collection called Sometime, Never. Taken together the three stories read more like fables than fantasy or science fiction, and they glance curiously at the contemporary world they are not directly seeking to imitate. But whereas Wyndham explores genetics and medical experiments in an undated time and Golding takes on inventions in ancient Rome, Peake leads us into a post-human world where half-beasts – a goat and a hyena who used to be men, a lamb whose earlier incarnation is obscure – struggle for power and specialise in pain. What can this story be about, what non-fabulous reality lurks behind it or in its sights?