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SOS the Rope does make an interesting pair with Steppe. However, rather than a barbarian travelling into the future, this time we have a barbarian living in the future.
A post-apocalyptic future that has nomadic warrior tribes or loners, as well as more advanced technological groups that keep them fed and housed, in an interesting symbiosis.
Two men meet and challenge in the Battle Circle - one a fine warrior, but the other a master, as the former learns. The stakes escalate because they are both intrigued by the same woman, and the predictable happens. Both having the same three letter name Sol, the vanquished has to change his to Sos, and doesn't get to become married, either.
The winner has a plan, build an empire, and realising that Sos is an educated planner, wants him as his adviser, despite having wagered the right never to use any of the six major weapons again. So you can tell from the title what happens there. Not to mention the almost hilariously slashy cover.
This scenario progresses as their differences and the chance meeting at the same time with the one woman they both live affecting all things further in the novel, and discoveries of the other parts of society.
Again, better than I thought it would be. It is also illustrated.
3.5 out of 5
An interesting story that is a precursor of work like Larry Niven's Dream Park, but on a bigger scale.
A very settled Galactic Society uses a live action roleplaying historical scenario as entertainment and an outlet for those that seek adventure. The game scale has compressed time to allow for different eras to be played out. Interestingly this Galactic society is displayed as largely post-literate, from a book from 1976.
A group of players decides to gain an advantage by time travel - but snatching a Uigur man just about to die from the 800s to use his knowledge to tactical advantage.
However, he is intelligent and cunning, and decides to use his knowledge for himself, getting into the game - as staying in Galactic society is better than being a dead Steppe dweller. So time for alliances, raids, etc.
The other nice twist is that the game substitutes spaceships and stunners for the historical weaponry, so the scale is interstellar, while still talking about 'bows' and 'horses', and this actually works.
And if you know a bit of your Asian nomad barbarian history, you might have some inkling of what is coming.
3.5 out of 5
Blue Tyson —
I think the author said this might be a little Vancian, and he is probably right, there. That being said, I am no big Jack Vance man, so not the greatest reason to read a book, for me.
The protagonist is a professional game 'Player', working for a master who hires him out to other wealthy players, and also uses his knowledge to make plenty on the betting market, as well.
The whole society that surrounds this gaming is completely focused on money and simple contracts as being pretty much the be-all and end-all. The gaming setup can be virtual, so you can have multiplayer swordfights, or whatever, with no-one actually getting stabbed for real, and it seems these environments work well.
All this standard day to day existence is broken up upon the murder of the man who is the closest thing to a friend that our man Conn has.
An off-world woman, an object to be worked out, and some secrets of why people were literally trying to take him out, need to be found.
That is all pretty straightforward, but the super-competent and confident Larbro has his eyes opened as he goes off planet and encounters other people and races that behave and believe in ways and things that are completely foreign to him. This includes another planet with a dedication to a different sport, so some fun to be had.
There are some twists coming I didn't see, and the end is certainly an improvement, even if throwing in a concept or two that perhaps should have been mentioned or hinted at earlier.
Not Free SF ReaderBlue Tyson —
A collection of stories about a whacky future inventor who can invent crazy stuff like time machines, but only when he is drunk enough to let his subconscious come out and take a crack at it. The problem is that he is the get so smashed he can't remembers what he has done kind of drunk.
The future as seen from the 1940s, of course. So, you have 3-D tv, computers, but nothing like communications now. Retina printing, though.
Time machines, annoying robots, little furry guys from the future who want to take over the world, and other silliness is to be found here.
I find them amusing, but not hilarious.
Robots Have No Tails : Time Locker - Henry Kuttner
The second of Kline's Martian Planetary Romances again sees a man with reasons to be happy to get the hell out of dodgy planet Earth. This time, Jerry Morgan, a falsely disgraced army officer ends up with his wealthy uncle.
Who just happens to be Richard Morgan (also writing something that just may be planetary romancesque, too, in The Steel Remains).
Richard Morgan happens to have hopefully perfected a way to transport a man to Mars, as opposed to doing the body inhabiting-mentality switching type trick employed elsewhere.
Once he makes it there, Jerry is propelled into sword swinging action, as he becomes embroiled in an interracial conflict and war - and is also caught between two space princesses and their various relatives who would like to see him lose a few vital body parts.
Some great monsters in here, flying beasties, sentient vegetable balls and more, including the trusty dalfs.
Not quite as good as the first, but certainly still up there with Burroughs best few Mars books, by way of comparison.
3.5 out of 5
A novel that is definitely worthy of resurrection. Apparently Zelazny was influenced by this book in the writing of Amber, and you can certainly see why. A powerful man unsure of his memories is transported to another world, where he is not sure of his equally formidable allies or enemies, both male and female.
Unlike Corwin or Merlin, whom you are fairly sure of personally while reading that series even if you are not sure of their methods, the protagonist here is not so certain of character, which makes for an interesting experience.
A fantasy type setting with a science fictional explanation of mutants and energy (and also the introduction of Guns to Avalon, so to speak) for werewolf, vampire and sorcerer archetypes. There are those with counterparts on all worlds that exist, and Earthman Edward Bond has the Coven member Ganelon as his on the Dark World. However, while Ganelon is on the might makes right ruling side, Bond, when transported by the rebel sorceress threw in his lot with the rebels, as well as his knowledge of Earth warfare.
The Coven and its fading strength want Ganelon back, to influence the most powerful source on the Dark World, that of Lyr. So, with names there are overtones of other myths, and even through one of the Coven an Arthurian analogy that gives some more depth to this short novel.
Having read quite a large amount of Kuttner's SF type work, this is clearly one of his very best efforts.
The dual personality in the Dark World of the Bond influenced amoral Ganelon leaves you unsure right up until the end of what will happen, and perhaps even beyond.
A fine selection by Planet Stories, this volume.
There is a lengthy introduction to this book by Michael Moorcock, setting the stage. He discusses that this is an original, far superior version to a later butchered paperback edition, and how is happy to have missed that and now read this one. Noting that doing the Burroughs thing is not as easy as it might sound, giving he had a crack at his own trilogy, and didn't live up to the standard.
That, however, is definitely not the case here. I was dubious about this - admittedly only having read one Kline story before - but this book is good. In fact, easily the equal of the best Burroughs work. A different style, of course, but the trappings are there. Earthman goes to Mars, is handy with a sword, and there is a beautiful Princess. Or two, as the case may be, and one of them is almost as good with the edged weaponry.
Different colored men, strange beasts - some of which are fearsome and domesticated - or beastmen perhaps, death rays, flying machines, chases, escapes and battles, all the good stuff is here.
A nice piece of writing, and if you like the planetary romance or even just John Carter stuff, absolutely give this one a go. Harry Thorne's a more cerebral character, and he has a very different antagonist in this novel to those that Carter faces, but it is all thoroughly enjoyable.
This full proper version absolutely deserves the Planet Stories edition rescue it has been given, excellent work by Mona and crew.
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.
Matt Carse, an archaeologist of the most definitely roguish sort of tomb raider is looking to score. Then the discovery of the mythical Sword of Rhiannon catapults him back into time, and into the body of a man well suited to be a barbarian adventurer.
Landing in the middle of a group of people that really don't like his country, he has to go from galley slave to dealing with possession by an ancient powerful scientist and war.
A great old-style planetary romance novel that ratchets up the adventure as it goes along. Hero, comic sidekick, femme fatale, winged men, fish women, ancient super weaponry and more.
Great stuff, and also published as Sea-Kings Of Mars.
Last stand for a dying order.
Stark and his allies (even those who would be more than happy to stick a sword in his neck), have to try and do what they can to save as many people as possible.
Cities start to crumble on the dying world of Skaith and only mass evacuation can save the half of the population that will die.
The old powers would rather stay and see that happen, and our hero has to try and change it, avoid crazed madwoman, and stay alive in the process.
A fine end to this trilogy.
This Planet Stories volume is a two story collection containing
The Secret Of Sinharat
Overall, a great pair of stories. The introduction by Michael Moorcock reminiscing about hunting down copies of Planet Stories and his friendship over the miles with Brackett and Hamilton is quite charming. Swapping tea for maple syrup, as an example.
Don't miss this one.
The Secret Of Sinharat
Barbarian hordes and witch women.
Stark's old mentor tracks him down, and hence he gets involved in trying to stop a barbarian insurrection on Mars.
All is not as it seems with the charismatic leader of the horder, or with the odd Venusian mercenary.
With some capable female assistance, Stark sword swings into action.
4 out of 5
The People of the Talisman
Unmasked warlords and almost dead cities.
With a lot of sword, spear and axe work in between, the book gets more interesting after Stark unmasks a war leader of his opposition after a good belt to the helmet is delivered. Both he and her followers are rather suprised to discover she is not a man.
More fighting of course ensues, but the aforementioned pair are forced to work together against strange aliens in an unfortunately not deserted city, to ensure things do not go badly wrong.
4 out of 5
Fire and Sword.
Stark already has released the Hounds, and he puts them to very good use in this battle of progressive and conservative forces across the planet.
Under siege, the forces of his allies need help, and he can find them some. With his friend Simon's political influence, getting some technological assistance from a ship in the area could make raising a siege like bullseyeing womp-rats in the T-16 back home.
A somewhat more powerful set of events than in the first novel, I think.
Really excellent, and definitely better than the first of the trilogy.
The Dark Mark cometh.
As part of a most excellent Brackett 'Space Opera Noir from the master' ebook bundle, from Baen.
The title refers to the color of the sun of the planet Skaith, where this series is based.
Stark ventures there looking for an old friend and mentor, someone who was pivotal in his survival and upbringing.
Then it gets stranger. Skaith is a backwater, and speakof the Dark Man and other such Robert E. Howard appellations - that is what a prophesy suggests Stark might be - a pivotal figure in the planet's conflict.
Once he arrives, he could be in a Burroughs or Howard story, Witchfire story, backstabbing madwomen, tough guy enemies - ok, apart from the telepathic hounds, perhaps.
Certainly monster fighting and sword swinging to be done, however.
Not a brilliant book by any stretch, as you would probably guess, but it is very compelling, as he who was N'Chaka the wild man, the Wolfshead (has anyone been called by the titles of two Howard stories in one book before?), searches for his friend among many deadly enemies on a planet full of people disinclined to believe in the existence of the outsided Galactic Union.
I don't think anyone who likes the whole family of space hero/planetary romance supermen type of story will regret reading these books for a second, as Brackett certainly has more talent than most of the writers of the same.
A sword and planet adventure in the Burroughs tradition. If you like that sort of thing I am pretty sure you will like this one.
Of the protagonist:
"Esau Cairn was, in short, a freak--a
Born in the Southwest, of old frontier stock, he came of a race whose characteristics were inclined toward violence, and whose traditions were of war and feud and battle against man and nature. The mountain country in which he spent his boyhood carried out the tradition. Contest--physical contest--was the breath of life to him.
Desperate for a place to fit in he gets himself transported to another world by a man who now recounts his story.
And a dangerous place it is to arrive with nothing.
Needless to say, he gets over that, and soon swords, warriors, winged she-devils, evil queens and more are all over the place as he gets into trouble and doing some good that Conan himself would certainly be happy to have been involved in.
There are bad, violent, torturing things to be overthrown, and Esau Cairn is the man to lead the army to do it.
Blue Tyson —
Moorcock has written an unapologetic, no holds barred, Burroughsian rip..errr.. riff. :) Complete with the same lack of wardrobe for the characters.
Michael Kane, a physicist, becomes involved with a project that can transport consciousness, it appears. Think Adam Strange sort of thing, complete with limited time of travel.
It also happens, than growing up, he lived near a French fencing master, who gave him many, many lessons.
Needless to say, he ends up projected to Mars, meets a princess, fights Blue Giant armies, has an evil raven haired sorceress femme fatale lust after and want to kill him, after seducing his princess' fiance, no less.
He also happens to rescue a relative, make friends with an enemy, and all that sort of thing.
Pure escapism, and a lot of fun.
Masters of the Pit (aka Barbarians of Mars) (Trade Paperback)Paizo Inc.
Our Price: $12.99Add to Cart
Better than the middle book, and a little longer. Kane has perfected his Martian matter transmitter, so can travel at will. Something he is pleased about.
Some primitive species has opened a biological weapon that the ancient alien super race has left behind. This is turning people into monomaniacal half-zombie types, and eventually killing them.
Many adventures happen to try and solve this, with an amusing twist at the end.
Much of it accompanied by his friend Hool Hadj.
Oh, and a few jokes thrown in, in passing through a certain area, some of the geographical features are S'sdla, Nosirrah and Golana, not to mention Modnaf.
Blue Tyson —
Not quite as enjoyable at the first. Kane returns to Mars after getting some help and financing in building a machine, especially from an author acquaintance looking to recount his tales to the public.
He helps yet another rebellion succeed, fights some spider monsters, builds an airship, stops a war, and returns to find he actually has come back to the same time period, as his betrothed is still hanging around.
Ok, these Paizo Planet Stories books are pretty cool. Rather than some of the cheaper looking flimsy trade paperbacks around with ordinary paper this is nicer, and has one of the covers designed to make it longer last with an indentation before the spine - whatever you call that.
Also, not as tall as I thought they would be - around 20cm by the looks, so going for a bit more retro look, if not all the way to the old mass market. Retro font, too. The cover art is fairly nice, too.
Black God's Kiss is about a bazillion times better a title than 'Jirel of Joiry', too, which an earlier not complete collection of stories was titled. My sister had this book, and the dodgy fairy-sounding title put me off it for a while when I was much younger.
That aside, there a 10 page or so intro by Suzy McKee Charnas detailing the history of Moore's character, and how such an aggressive female heroine was important to her when she was young and looking for heroic fictional role models.
As she points out, Moore has a different style to fellow Weird Tales denizen Robert E. Howard, and while these aren't quite as good as his major the stories overall the quality is high, and the crossover with her other character Northwest Smith is great.
Yet another cool Paizo Planet Stories book. This one collects Henry Kuttner's Sword and Sorcery stories from the magazine era.
The two heroes in this collection (Elak, the first 4 stories, Prince Raynor, the last two) are or a somewhat different breed from the brooding barbarians Conan and Kull, or the immortal sorcerer survivor Kane.
The pair are more along the lines of Harry Turtledove's Gerin the Fox - both nobility to begin that that prefer the hands on adventuring to sitting on big fancy chairs.
Elak's weapon of choice is the rapier, and as Joe Lansdale points out in his introduction (which you can basically find at Subterranean magazine online 'Kuttner Sharpens His Literary Sword' for those that would like to check it out), meaning he is a rogue with a little more finesse, both at the sharp end, and with the ladies. The latter is where we find him in the first story, late from an assignation to rescue a friend, and wanting to go back for more kisses before facing off with the evil warlock with his mates. Luckily in this story at least, the woman in question fancies going along.
Further, Elak says "...tested the metal of his rapier. It's good to have a weapon like this again. I'll give this blade its baptism today."
"And I'll give mine," Velia broke in, coming lightly up the hill toward them. Her slim armor-clad body gleamed in the gray light of false dawn.
Elak wants her to say, but "Velia smiled and shook her head. "I've tasted awar, and I like the draft. Listen!"
Raynor's female companion also prefers the road to staying at home.
There's something here for the Lovecraft fan, too, in some of the style, and opponents.
Kuttner's Sword and Sorcery tales are certainly of good quality. Well done to Paizo for collecting these obscure stories and giving them another go round.
Northwest of Earth: The Complete Northwest Smith (Trade Paperback)Paizo Inc.
Our Price: $12.99Add to Cart
The introduction by C. J. Cherry to this Paizo Planet Stories is brief. Basically she says these are good, you should read them, as should your grandparents and grandchildren and children.
She doesn't mention the pets, although reading them to your parrot or budgie to get them to come out with 'heat gun' or 'Northwest' sounds like a good plan, to me.
Anyway, she is right. Atmospheric bordering on horror at times, in a similar fashion to some of the Jirel tales, Northwest runs into more odd monsters and women and even monster women than you would expect any space adventurer to do.
Speaking of the flame-haired sword swinging sorcerer slicing woman of Joiry, there is a great crossover story here : 'Quest Of the Starstone'.
Very nicely done indeed to have these all in one volume, as the stories have been available in different chunks in different places in the past.
Grab a copy.