Summer of Conan: Leonard Carpenter’s Conan the Hero

Today we close the books on The Summer of Conan.  You can find all of my Conan posts here.  Over the course of three months, I read every Conan story Robert E. Howard wrote, watched all three Conan movies, and read twelve Conan pastiches.  I did not, unfortunately, get to any of the Conan comics.  Reading Robert E. Howard’s original work was a revelation.  I would much rather go back and read Howard’s other work than dive back into the Conan pastiches, though I eventually will.  To that end, and with the Halloween season approaching with the end of summer, I am next turning to The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard.

Leonard Carpenter wrote the most Conan pastiches of any of the Tor authors.  I’ve only read one of his eleven Conan novels.  Carpenter didn’t write many other novels, but he did write poetry, and what looks like a lot of short fiction.

Carpenter introduces Conan in Conan the Hero rising from slimy water into a steaming jungle, skin striped with “muddy tones of lampblack and umber.”  If that sounds kind of badass and kind of like Rambo, well, yeah.  Conan the Hero is a good book, but it suffers from being as influenced by the 1980s American drug epidemic, the Soviet-Afghan War, and, most of all, Vietnam as by Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories.

Conan starts the book fighting in the Turan army far, far to the east.  They are fighting against tribesmen in what is an obvious Southeast Asia analogue.  The desert natives struggle to operate in humid jungles that elephants are better suited to than horses (Carpenter does some cool worldbuilding with the elephants by the way).  Soldiers spend their leave in a city of the locals on their side that is run by a cruel drug lord.  Meanwhile, political machinations are afoot back in Aghrapur, but as usual the story isn’t nearly as interesting when Conan is offscreen.  In this book, it is not so much a barbarian-civilization clash as the inevitable failure of overstretched imperialism.

“On every side, ladies, are barbarous hordes who eagerly await a first sign of our weakness, the smallest chink in our imperial armor. All the great empires of history, once they have forgotten menace, have been overrun—their cities broken, their temples profaned, their thrones and alters besquatted by vile, hairy hides!  If we do not keep up unrelenting pressure against this external threat, why, even the sacred virtue of Turanian womanhood will be imperiled—”

I like this book, but it really suffers from the amount of contemporary influence that Carpenter allows to seep into it.  It isn’t quite so relevant today, and it detracts from the story as a Conan story.  But while I definitely put Carpenter a tier down from Robert Jordan and John Maddox Roberts, his work is better than that of Steve Perry or Roland Green, and I will eventually get around to reading the other Carpenter Conan book I own.

3.5 of 5 Stars.


You can find all of my Summer of Conan posts here.

About H.P.

Blogs on books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday (speculative fiction) and Hillbilly Highways (country noir and nonfiction).
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Throwback SF and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Summer of Conan: Leonard Carpenter’s Conan the Hero

  1. danielshumphreys says:

    I’ve read this one but the only part I can remember is Conan fighting from atop a war elephant. It made me think of Lord of the Rings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      Fantasy needs more war elephants, tbh. In addition to more giant crabs. Men fighting giant crabs from elephant-back. You can have that one for free.


      • danielshumphreys says:

        LOL, that’s cruel. Of course, I do it to myself, to. I wrote a short story for an anthology and thought, hmm, there’s the bones of a series here.

        Warcrabs versus war elephants . . .. writing that one down. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. David says:

    You should check out “SHADOW OF THE BARBARIAN: A LEGEND WILL RISE by John Thane. Its cutting edge sword & sorcery/ Heroic Fantasy and its awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Announcing a Summer of Conan – Index | Every Day Should Be Tuesday

  4. Pingback: Robert Jordan’s Previously Unpublished Warrior of the Altaii to be Published in Fall 2019 | Every Day Should Be Tuesday

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