I've really enjoyed the Kuttner collections offer by Planet Stories so far. Although I enjoyed Elak of Atlantis a bit more, The Dark World was still a very enjoyable read. The explanation behind the world-hopping on this one was more plausible in these modern times than most sword-and-planet stories.
Kuttner was far ahead of his time.
Yep...I can see Brackett's influence on the Empire Strikes Back
Of all the Planet Stories I've read, this one had more of a Star Wars vibe than Sword and Planet.
The first story, the Secret of Sinharat was fantastic. If made into a movie, Eric John Stark could easily fit in with any modern big-screen heroes. He was definitely a blueprint for many of the darker heroes to follow.
The second story, The People of the Talisman, was a bit of a disappointment. The pacing was a bit plodding until an all-too-quick conclusion. Still, it was full of interesting characters and some great imagery.
This was one of my favorite Planet Stories so far. It reminded me quite a bit of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The protagonists were likable, the villains sufficiently evil, and the heroines held their own. I also enjoyed the interesting variations of real-world cultures and mythology.
I'm relatively new to Moorcock, having somehow missed the Elric novels in my youth. I set out to remedy that, and just completed the first Elric saga, which I enjoyed greatly. The next book I read was City of the Beast.
I enjoyed this book every bit as much as the Elric saga, and in some cases, more. Michael Kane is a fantastic hero, and Mr. Moorcock somehow really conveyed to me the beauty of Shizala and her city, so that I could sense Kane's willingness to sacrifice everything for them.
This book had it all: likable characters, interesting landscapes, high action, thrills and chills. There was one stretch where the description made me so claustrophobic that I actually began to sweat.
I'm dying to read the next installment. Fortunately, it comes out this month.
Fiend Folio is the cream of the crop of the monster books beyond the Monster Manual. It has a great mix of creatures, both new and updated from past editions of the games. Some of the creatures within have become instant classics, including the blackstone gigante and ulgurstasta, which have both appeared in several adventures in Dungeon. Old favorites like the demondands (gehreleths), monadic and movanic devas, and rilmani appear nowhere else. The chronotyryn and maug have made memorable appearances in my campaign.
The designers were given an agenda to attempt to create "the next githyanki", a monster with "traction" that could one day achieve the longetivity and popularity of the githyanki. The nerras, ethergaunts, and shadar-kai all seem destined to achieve this goal.
Fiend Folio also introduced many innovations to the game. The swarm subtype made its debut here, as did grafts and symbionts. The inclusion of what summon monster spells could call many of these creatures within their entries was a nice touch, as well as the tie-ins to other non-core books.
Don't let the fact that it was released prior to 3.5 scare you off. The Fiend Folio was essentially "3.4", with only small modifications needed (mostly to damage reduction).
Overall, this book is a high-quality mix of fantastic monsters across a variety of challenge ratings and environments. For my money, the Monster Manual III and IV don't come close to its quality or content.