The Ship of Ishtar (Trade Paperback)

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by A. Merritt, with an introduction by Tim Powers

War among the gods!

Amateur archaeologist John Kenton didn’t know what he expected when he broke open the stone block from Babylon, but it wasn’t to be hurled through time and space into an ageless conflict. On a golden ship in a strange dimension of endless sea, the goddess of love and vengeance lies locked in an eternal stalemate with the god of the underworld—and the coming of an outsider might just tip the balance once and for all. With the beautiful priestesses of Ishtar and the pale warriors of the Black God both seeking to bend him to their own ends, will Kenton become a slave of alien powers, or take up his sword and prove himself the true master of the Ship of Ishtar?

A major inspiration for H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, A. Merritt remains one of the most celebrated fantasists of all time. This complete edition, introduced by Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates), presents The Ship of Ishtar as it was meant to be read, with original illustrations by pulp legend Virgil Finlay—a classic not to be missed.

"The most remarkable presentation of the utterly alien and non-human that I have ever seen... [a] unique type of strangeness which no one else has been able to parallel."
    —H.P. Lovecraft

Introduction by Tim Powers (The Anubis Gates, The Stress of Her Regard).

192-page softcover trade paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-177-0

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****( ) (based on 4 ratings)

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Definitely Something Different

***( )( )

The Ship of Ishtar certainly has an original premise: an unearthed artifact (a toy ship) transports a modern-day archaeologist onto an ancient, very real vessel that is cursed by the gods to sail until a wager between the god of love (Ishtar) and the god of death (Nergal) is resolved. The archaeologist, John Kenton, falls madly in love with a priestess of Ishtar named Sharane aboard ship, but prompts the bitter wrath of a priest of Nergal. Kenton has many adventures while on the ship, but keeps being pulled back to Earth at unpredictable moments. After one such trip, Kenton returns to the ship only to find that Sharane has been kidnapped; so with the aid of some friends, he sets off to rescue her.

A bare description of the plot may not do the book justice, as the story is densely constructed with mythological layers and a very florid style of writing that is very evocative (though it is overdone at points and slows the story to a crawl). Characters are very one-dimensional, dialogue is decent, and there's some zesty description in the action scenes. Although perhaps overlong, The Ship of Ishtar has enough interesting features to recommend it. It's one of those books that fits into the fantasy genre, but is so different than most fantasy that it creates a memorable contrast.


Just Epic

*****


A gripping, if dated, adventure

****( )

I really enjoyed this book, and loved the myriad details that obviously spawned now classical elements of the fantasy genre.

It took about a third of the book before I couldn't put it down, the shifting of the protagonist from the real world to that of the ship far too frequent for the adventure to grip me. But when it did, I was hooked, and finished the book in a single sitting from that point on.

My only real criticism of The Ship of Ishtar is that it is built around an antiquated misogyny that was unrelentingly distracting from what would otherwise be an exciting adventure. I recognize that the book was written over eighty years ago, but I was nevertheless pulled repeatedly out of the story by the overwhelming portrayal of the few female characters as vengeful, but ultimately submissive objects to be possessed by the dominant men. Merritt may have been a master at weaving descriptive prose and an intricate world of eclectic real-world myths and his own imaginings, but he was far from enlightened when it comes to gender. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the Virgil Finaly illustrations this edition includes, bare breasts and all, so take the above for what it is.

In all, I recommend The Ship of Ishtar and had a great time reading it, despite the problematic elements it contains, which are less the fault of Merritt than they are the time in which he wrote.


***( )( )

One bigger ship, two gods.

A man unearths an ancient artifact, and a small ship is writ large, leaving him in a fantasy world embroiled in the conflict between deities of Love and Death.

The ship-dwellers are the former, and our hero's side. The black priest, unsurprisingly, is the latter.

In the beginning this fantasy novel is rather flowery, and may bring to mind, for example, H. P. Lovecraft's Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath.

Towards the end you get to the swordfighting and arrow shooting and blood, though, so the tone changes somewhat as the book progresses.



Hello, Mr. Mona! First-time poster here---with a burning question to boot.

First of all, I want to thank you and the other folks at Paizo for producing nice new trade editions of many a worthy classic of the fantastic. And you deserve double-thanks for the care you put into producing sound, definitive texts. I am especially excited about reading Otis Adelbert Kline in all his *unmutilated* glory. And while I'm on texts, I may as well segue to my question:

What's the source text for your upcoming edition of THE SHIP OF ISHTAR? I'm not a scholar of such matters by any stretch of the imagination, but I do realize that there are a lot of variant texts out there when it comes to A. Merritt. This is partly because Merritt was an inveterate reviser, and partly because of meddling editors. In the case of THE SHIP OF ISHTAR, I suspect editors were responsible for the shape of the first book publication (Putnam, 1926), in which certain passages from the original ARGOSY--ALL STORY text were truncated. This abridgment, however slight, was apparently severe enough to create unnecessary confusion among readers about the behavior of John Kenton early in the story. (If I am not mistaken--and, as I am working from memory, I'm making no claims of infallibility---the Putnam edition purged significant passages which referred to Kenton being afflicted with shell-shock after his service in the Great War.) Unfortunately, this altered text is probably the most widely read one, as Avon later used the Putnam text for their mass market PB reprints of ISHTAR. The preferred text is apparently that of the Borden Memorial Edition (ca. 1949). Not only did the Memorial Edition feature some of illustrator Virgil Finlay's most gorgeous work; it also restored the full text of ISHTAR. Of course that leaves this question: did the Memorial Edition merely restore the ARGOSY text in its entirety? or did it feature emendations/additions by Merritt, perhaps derived by the editors from MS material? Merritt, after all, was always endeavoring to improve his work. Of course, I've never compared the texts, so I couldn't say---but it would be most interesting to look into.

Anyway, just wondering as I wander (the 'Net that is). Many thanks! Keep up the great work!

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

I have not yet had the occasion to compare the Memorial edition and the Argosy edition (I don't have the latter, I'm afraid), but we will be going with the Memorial Edition, as it is thought to be the author's preferred text. It definitely has the bit about the shell shock cut from the Avon edition. I also have the "Famous Fantastic Mysteries" version of this book, but I've not yet done a textual analysis and comparison to the three or four other versions I do have.

I can say this: The Memorial Edition is superior to the Avon edition in almost all ways, it's about a third again as long, and I'm confident it's the right one for the Planet Stories edition.

By the way, you really know your stuff!


Erik, thank you for answering my questions. Just what I wanted to hear . . . and then you come out of nowhere and hit me with more Wellman, too! Well now, looks like I'm going to be pre-ordering a few more Paizo volumes . . .

You, sir, obviously do your homework, too. And if you don't end up with some sort of award for your pivotal role in bringing this fine old stuff back into print, I wanna know the reason why!

Best regards,

Jeremiah

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

In lieu of awards, I will accept increased sales for the line.

Your purchases help more than you know!


That is interesting, so which version is this from, anyone know?

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0601941.txt

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

That's the much shorter, inferior version.

Sovereign Court

Erik Mona wrote:

In lieu of awards, I will accept increased sales for the line.

Your purchases help more than you know!

hello Eric,

Well I was showing your website to a friend of mine last week end, and he was drooling over this line of books. Especially as he has already read some of the authors work, so ...

Expect a gift order sometimes soon.

And spread the word.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

We've updated the product image to match the finished cover.


Was it a conscious decision to make her look so much like Disney’s Little Mermaid?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Theris Nordo Ichka wrote:
Was it a conscious decision to make her look so much like Disney’s Little Mermaid?

Hmm. Jessica Rabbit I can maybe see; Ariel not so much.

But you say that like it's a bad thing?


Checking back in. :) I want to say that the cover looks gorgeous and I'm VERY glad that the Finlay art will be included (though I actually believe that Stephen Fabian is the best Merritt artist, so far). This book is a milestone in Merritt/fantasy publishing.

In a post on the "Cimmerian" blog site a few weeks ago, I gave a shout-out to this new edition. Here's a link:

http://www.thecimmerian.com/?p=3978

Best,
Deuce Richardson

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Thanks for the support, Deuce. I dutifully used your quote in the Planet Stories catalog! :)

Liberty's Edge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

will this book be available at Gencon?

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Mr Baron wrote:
will this book be available at Gencon?

Unless it unexpectedly shows up in our warehouse way earlier than scheduled, no.


Theris Nordo Ichka wrote:
Was it a conscious decision to make her look so much like Disney’s Little Mermaid?

Ariel wishes she looked that good. ;)

Really, though, I'm thrilled to see this coming back out. Can one dare to hope that mroe of Mister Merritt's works will see reprint through Planet Stories?


Is the art being shown now the cover art that will be used for the Planet Stories release? It looks like some lovely work -- by Hannes Bok? I know he illustrated a lot of Merritt's books.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Eric Hinkle wrote:
Is the art being shown now the cover art that will be used for the Planet Stories release? It looks like some lovely work -- by Hannes Bok? I know he illustrated a lot of Merritt's books.

That is the finished cover. The cover painting is by Kieran Yanner.

Paizo Employee Chief Creative Officer, Publisher

Eric Hinkle wrote:
Can one dare to hope that mroe of Mister Merritt's works will see reprint through Planet Stories?

We'll see. If we can make a profit on this book, there will likely be more.

If.

--Erik


Erik Mona wrote:
Eric Hinkle wrote:
Can one dare to hope that mroe of Mister Merritt's works will see reprint through Planet Stories?

We'll see. If we can make a profit on this book, there will likely be more.

If.

--Erik

Well, I know I'll be getting at least one copy, and preferably more for a few friends.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Last night, I updated the cover image and product description to match the finished product. (Changes to the cover were mainly textual.)

Liberty's Edge

Eric! damn you and your blog!
I just received the Ship of Ishtar and Almuric, and was getting ready to begin reading Almuric (came out first so I decidede to go in order) now your damn blog makes me doubt this procesuder and calls me tor ead Merrit first...

but well a will roll is called for... what came out first what came out first... Merrit for late November, yes... that is a good plan :P


i just got this and its great so worth the wait and the finley artwork is the iceing on the cake

please tell me there will be more merritt


Well, I threw up a review on Amazon: I did like it, but it wasn't as great as I was expecting (bar the Finlay artwork, which is superb).

3 stars was about right - out of all the Planet Stories I have read, this was maybe the one I have enjoyed the least, although I have yet to pick up the Moorcock stories. I loved Kuttner and Brackett, and enjoyed C.L.Moore's prose, while realising that like rich food, a little Moore goes a long way.

In the end, the exclamation marks and dashes were just too much - it kept dragging me out of the story every time I saw a "Possess - Sharane!" line in the text. I know it was a deliberate attempt to create a storytelling rhythm, but it just grated on me too much.

I can see the tale in my head - it would make a great movie, and I am surprised no one has apparently tried - but the punctuation broke me.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Vic Wertz wrote:
Theris Nordo Ichka wrote:
Was it a conscious decision to make her look so much like Disney’s Little Mermaid?

Hmm. Jessica Rabbit I can maybe see; Ariel not so much.

But you say that like it's a bad thing?

I was reading Steppe last night, and my 3-year-old saw the little cover of Ship of Ishtar on the back. "Look, Mommy!" he said. "It's the Little Mermaid!"

Case closed. :)

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