Masters of the Pit (aka Barbarians of Mars) (Trade Paperback)

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by Michael Moorcock, with an introduction by Samuel R. Delany

Barbarians of Mars!

Once an American physicist whose experiments in matter transmission catapulted him across space and time, Michael Kane has grown comfortable in his new role as a prince of ancient Mars. Yet now a new peril threatens his adopted homeland—a plague called the Green Death, spread by zealots who are more machines than men. In order to find a cure, Kane and his Blue Giant comrade Hool Haji will need to cross oceans, battle hideous mutants and barbarians, and perhaps even sacrifice his adopted kingdom. But can all the swords and airships in the world prevail against an enemy that cannot be killed?

The creator of Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock remains one of the most honored science fiction and fantasy authors of all time. With Kane of Old Mars, Moorcock’s Eternal Champion returns with interplanetary adventure in the best Edgar Rice Burroughs tradition.

“Michael Moorcock [was] the most influential editor of science fiction in the English-speaking world... one of the important writers not just to cross the barrier between science fiction and literature but to melt it—as with a blowtorch! No one had a greater impact on the field than Moorcock.” —Samuel R. Delany, Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning author of Dhalgren

Though Masters of the Pit reads as a thrilling self-contained novel, its characters and locales are also featured in City of the Beast and Lord of the Spiders, both previously released under the Planet Stories line.

160-page softcover trade paperback
ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-104-6

About the Author

Michael Moorcock (1939– ) has been recognized since the 1960s as one of the most important speculative fiction writers alive. Born in London, Moorcock began editing the magazine Tarzan Adventures at the age of 15, and quickly gained notoriety for his character Elric of Melniboné, an anti-hero written as a deliberate reversal of recurring themes he saw in the writings of authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard. Many of his works, including both the Elric books and those of his popular androgynous secret agent Jerry Cornelius, are tied together around the concept of the Eternal Champion, a warrior whose many incarnations battle to maintain the balance between Law and Chaos in the multiverse, a term popularized by Moorcock referring to many overlapping dimensions or realities. In addition, Moorcock has also been recognized for his non-genre literary work, and his influence today extends into music, film, and popular culture. His writing has won numerous critical accolades, including the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement award, and in 2002 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

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Story by Rote


Michael Moorcock's Masters of the Pit is the third and final book featuring modern-day American Michael Kane traveling to ancient Mars. It's very much in line with the first two books in the series, and by this point the cardboard nature of the characters and repetitive action scenes start to become quite noticeable. The plot is somewhat original, as a plague has affected a distant city in a strange way: its inhabitants decide to dehumanize themselves by acting as mechanically and unemotionless as possible. Kane, along with his reliable blue giant friend Hool Haji, sets off to find a cure by rummaging the abandoned technology of an ancient culture. It's all a competent but not particularly memorable mix of sword-and-sorcery fantasy with a little sci-fi. Keep a close eye for some fun in Chapter One, as Moorcock uses thinly-disguised character and location names to attack Analog magazine and some of the big names in the field.


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.


I'll second B_Wiklund's review and rating. First of all, as with the second book in this trilogy, the title really has little to do with the main story. Secondly, while the novel does start out with an interesting concept and fantastically creepy atmosphere in the city of Cend-Amrid, this unfortunately goes to waste in favour of high action random encounter-like situations that do little to further the plot. Ideas that are full of potential (the Yaksha and the Sheev) remain undeveloped. The dialogue is wooden, and the characters have no depth. Worst of all, the ending is a total anti-climactic cop out. It's as if the author had an impending deadline and was about to exceed his word or page count, and instead of revising earlier elements of the story to make for a more compelling conclusion, he settled for a total dud of an ending. Moorcock has written some awesome stuff, but the Michael Kane/Mars trilogy is, in my opinion, some of his worst.

The Pits


The last of the Michael Kane novels whilst an improvement over Lord of Spiders and reaches parts comparable to City of the Beast is nonetheless a dissapointing ending to the trilogy.
Kane and Hool Haji are once again enjoyable partners engaged on a quest to find a cure for a deadly plague. They're a dynamic duo of swords and action.
Yet the book is full of might-have-beens. Rikon and his barbarians could have been an interesting villain/uneasy ally, the Sheev and Yaksha aren't developed further despite their influence on the main plot, and the ending is to be charitable I'll say original.
The pulp adventures and action are still there yet again Moorcock should have been able to deliver more. Can't really recommend this one.

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