LP: Jeopardy by The Sound
2012 1972 Records if02
Favorite Track: I Can’t Escape Myself
I just came back from a very adventurous and amazing camping trip in Wisconsin that I will have to blog about soon. But I also enjoyed reading a lot that trip including reading an entire book on both car trips. In between Hawkmoon novels, I read Conan the Barbarian short stories and I’m just craving them so much (I haven’t gotten my monthly DnD bloodshed in yet) I have to review each story in the series.
“The Hyborian Age, Part One” – 3 out of 5 broken skulls
Robert E. Howard
The purpose of this essay was to flesh and map out the different regions so Robert Howard could maintain consistency within his Conan stories. As a first time Conan reader, this was a dry way to start the journey, but a necessary one. Also, by the time I’m done reading the stories, I feel like re-reading this will be almost essential. For the reader, you can important historical information about different people including the Picts and Cimmerians. There is not much to say other than this is an excellent tool for writers who are working in the fantasy genre. Even I am thinking about writing a similar essay for a novel idea I have set in a fallen city. How did that city fall, Adam, how?
“The Thing in the Crypt” – 4 out of 5 broken skulls
L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter
This felt very familiar because it was in the movie. It is almost a plotless tale; more like a chapter of a larger work. This is how a young Conan finds his sword while escaping from prison. How this story succeeds is in its urgency. From the get-go Conan is in trouble, running cold and half-nude through the snow being chased by wolves. He hides in a rock which has a secret crypt inside of it. There a dead king sits in a throne holding a sword which Conan takes without questioning and is attacked by a mummy. The battle scene is great with Conan hacking the mummy to bits but the bits keep coming until he learns to use fire. A Weird Tales vibe haunts this pastiche which beguiled me into trusting further stories written or touched upon by de Camp and Carter. They are truly Conan-dorks.
“The Tower of the Elephant” – 5 out of 5 broken skulls
Robert E. Howard
I always forget that Conan is linked to Lovecraft’s Mythos in a sense. This tale almost could be a Lovecraft tale and is certainly great to read around a campfire. Conan is a young man who makes his living by stealing. Hanging out in a den of thieves (god, I want to play DnD so bad!), Conan overhears a braggart talking about the treasures inside the Tower of the Elephant, so mysteriously named as elephants do not roam in this land. Conan picks a fight with this man and kills him in the dark when the candles are sniffed. He then leaps the wall and immediately runs into another thief with the same idea. They team up and fight off some lions with the handy use of a poisonous gas. Upon climbing up the tower, Taurus is killed by a giant spider and the ensuring fight may be the best spider fight scene I have ever read. Sorry, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, you got nothing! Then Conan meets the “trans-comic being” of Yag-kosha, a blind elephant man who is being tortured by the evil sorcerer Yara. At its behest, Conan stabs out its heart and bleeds it over a jewel which he throws at Yara. The jewel eats Yara and Conan escapes with nothing.
The writing is excellent. The violence is handed well and the eerie cosmic horror atmosphere makes this ones easily my favorite so far and a tough one to beat. And it was the first Conan story written, I think. Doing research, I discover that it was the third one published in Weird Tales magazine. The First was The Phoenix on the Sword, which was published in December 1932, and written up as “a tale of the incredible thing that happened in King Conan’s bedchamber.” Yowza! I particularly like the different puzzles Conan and Taurus had to figure out as they climbed the tower like it was some kind of Legends of Hidden Temple game. An interesting tidbit I’ll have to watch is how many unjustified murders Conan gets away with in this series. His killing of the braggart reminds me of some of the violence Delilah gets away with in A Darker Shade of Magic and its sequel. It would have been nice to have more time with Yara. I love evil wizards.
More later, lunch break is over!