Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.
The first volume of Del Rey’s three-volume collection of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories is my introduction to Howard and almost my introduction to Conan. The Del Rey editions collect the stories in the order that Howard wrote them rather than by publication date or plot chronology. The first book includes a foreword by Mark Schultz and an introduction by Patrice Louinet. Both are excellent, neither denigrating the source material. Louinet is the editor, and Schultz contributed extensive illustrations (I understand these are missing from the Kindle version). He is no Frazetta—no one is—but I like Schutlz’s artwork a lot, and I find it supplanting Frazetta and the Ah-nold movies in how I picture Conan and his world. They do tend to be a little spoilery. The first volume also includes drafts, synopsizes, and, most notably, Robert E. Howard’s fictional history of the Hyborian Age.
The stories in this volume are shorter than the stories in the other two volumes. I’m not going to review each, or even the volumes as a whole, really. You’ve probably read the Howard stories and Jeffro’s Retrospective post (if you haven’t, stop reading this and do both). I will save the reviews for the pastiches, but I do have plenty to say about Howard’s stories. I will have a whole lot to say about Conan before it is all said and done.
Iron Man? Iron Man is a damn villain. The bad guy in Spider-Man: Homecoming only broke bad after Stark used his political influence to screw him out of a city contract. Peter Parker is basically motivated by the fact that Stark trusts him to fight the good guys but not to fight the bad guys. Or just doesn’t care. I would say he delegated overseeing Spider-Man to an incompetent underling, but there is no indication he gave any actual direction to do any actual oversight. Stark used Spider-Man and then tried to forget about him. Oh, and that Reason You Suck speak he gives Parker two-thirds of the way through the movie? All bull. He even tries to pat himself on the back for recruiting a 14-year-old to fight Captain America!
Now that I have that off my chest, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a very good superhero movie, a damn fine high school movie, and, uh, not quite exactly a Spider-Man movie.
I am very pleased to announce my very first guest post here at Every Day Should Be Tuesday: Dragon-Breath Cold by Rachel Dunne, author of In the Shadow of the Gods and The Bones of the Earth.
Interested in submitting a guest post to Every Day Should Be Tuesday? Let me know!
I’ve lived all my life in Wisconsin, except for the few years I spent at college in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, so I’ve had more than enough time to make a friend of winter.
I called it “dragon-breath cold” when I was younger: the kind of cold that turns every word you say into a cloud in front of your face (or lets you run around growling and breathing smoke threateningly at the family dog). I used to think the breath-clouds were shaped like words, that even if I couldn’t see the speaker’s mouth, I could read their words before they dissipated into the air.
Welcome back to my first read of the Dark Tower series after a one-week hiatus for Independence Day, the original Brexit. This week I cover The Lady of Shadows from The Drawing of the Three.
Before we get to The Lady of Shadows, there is a “shuffle.” Roland and Eddie Dean are back in the world of the Dark Tower (the Mid-World? All-World?), but the antibiotics haven’t started working yet. And they have to get to the next door. They do, but when they get there, Eddie Dean demands that Roland take him with him, or he will kill Roland’s body while he is on the other side.
“I was born in the midst of a battle,” he answered, tearing a chunk of meat from a huge joint with his strong teeth. “The first sound my ears heard was the clang of swords and the yells of the slaying.”
Believe it or not, I had never read Robert E. Howard’s original Conan stories. My entire exposure to Conan was limited to the Ah-nold movies and Robert Jordan’s first three Conan pastiches. That simply will not stand. No self-respecting blogger can spend any serious amount of time examining speculative fiction’s roots and not cover Howard and Conan.
Throwback SF Thursday was never supposed to be about one-off book reviews, although I have written plenty of those and will continue to do so. Ideally, what I will do is look at both vintage SF and the retro SF it has inspired. That will be my approach with Conan. Not only will I cover Howard’s original stories, I will also cover the move adaptations, a big chunk of the pastiches, and one stretch of the comics.
The full Gondwane Epic runs six books. Lin Carter apparently planned ten. I have the first four chronologically—The Warrior of World’s End, The Enchantress of World’s End, The Immortal of World’s End, and The Barbarian of World’s End (there are rather expensive copies available on Amazon; I can’t vouch for their quality). Carter really should have called it the World’s End epic. Carter wrote Giant of World’s End first, then went back and wrote five prequel novels. The odd novel out is The Pirate of World’s End.
The Gondwane books are set roughly 700 million years into the future. The sun is a bit dimmer and the moon closer to earth and showing the cracks which will be it (and life on earth’s) undoing. The continents kept moving and met on the other side, forming another supercontinent, and giving the books their name—Gondwane. (Fortuitously, I was reading a bit about the summer solstice and learned that days are slowly getting longer as the earth’s rotation slows, but the days on Gondwane are not abnormally long.) The laws of physics have subtly changed, and magic is as common as science, but each is more likely to appear as an inscrutable artifact.
The hero of Carter’s epic is no mere man. Ganelon is found stumbling naked through a blue rain beside crystal mountains. A wizard later determines he is a non-human construct. For all intents and purposes a superman created by the Time Gods to face some potential disaster they foresaw millions of years after his demise (he was evidently hatched from stasis early and will miss his purpose, but no one gives much thought to this). He is superhuman in every way. He towers head and shoulders over mortal men. He can outrun a horse in a sprint or a marathon. Or he could, if horses weren’t extinct. He has superhuman strength and stamina. His skin is tougher than most armor, and he heals fast enough to practically have a healing factor. Oh, and his hair is silver. Not silver like your debonair uncle’s hair silver, silver like your avaricious aunt’s silver silver. So basically he looks like this.
The second in a planned trilogy, The Bones of the Earth is an able follow up to Dunne’s grimdark debut. Dunne continues to build on her strengths. But if you were frustrated by In the Shadow of the Gods, you will probably remain frustrated by The Bones of the Earth.