Entry 0106: More Conan reviews

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LP: We are the Lazer Viking by An Albatross

2003 Ace Fu Records ace 023

Favorite Track: The Vitally Important Pelvic Thrust

 

Before I return to the bloodshed of Conan, I want to say Happy New Year and let it be as good as 2016 as far as record collecting goes. Last year, I found some of the rarest records I had been searching for, leaving me speechless yet again at the mass of goodies I have hoarded in my one bedroom apartment. One day, I will take a vacation and just list to all the records I own. I may have to take two vacations. Finding the Little Johnny Jewel Ork Records 7-inch made it feel possible that I could acquire all the crazy records I’m searching for. What would I do if I found an original the Return of the Durutti Column in all its sandpapery goodness? What if next time I walk in, I see an original New Rose single? Oh, the tasty possibilities.

Okay, jazz music is driving me nuts. I wanted to write but this is distracting. Don’t get me wrong: I like jazz music. But right now, it is not helping. I actually wrote “tastiness possibilities” and only just caught the error. I blame the keyboardist.

So, by Crom, let’s get to the violence!

“The Vale of Lost Women” – 1 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard

 

Oh brother. Where to start with this tale? I enjoyed that it was told from Livia’s point of view instead of Conan’s, but, well, Livia is very proud of a whiteness while being captive of the Bakalah tribe. Then she offers Conan her body as a prize for rescuing her. Yikes! Instead she flees Conan and finds the vale of lost women, which has some lesbian suggestions, but they try to sacrifice her to a moth-god, which was by the far the best part. Conan saves her and tells he wouldn’t have slept with her because that would have been rape. Who knew Conan was a class act? Is he? His sexual policy seems to alter between stories (see the Frost Giant’s Daughter) so I am not sure what to make of this ending. Either way, this story was never published during Howard’s life time and perhaps it would have been best left that way. For you future Conan-reading people, feel free to skip this one. You are only missing out on racism.

 

“The Castle of Terror” – 3 out of 5 broken skulls

L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

 

I’ve noticed that I prefer the weird tales of Conan. Something about combining the bloodthirsty action with the supernatural and the cosmic mindbending that reels me in like a fish swallowing the fly. This tale is more atmospheric than plot. In fact, the plot is a little thin. Conan is once again being chased by nature. This time a couple of lions. This already feels a tad unrealistic; I get Conan is the hero and faster than most humans…but lions?!? Just when he is about to turn and fight, he notices the lions have stopped chasing him. He has wandered too close to a dilapidated castle, a haunted castle. Conan enters and, despite seeing eerie spirits, decides to sleep. Well, I love Scooby Doo so I bought it. Then Conan realizes the serpent-people of long ago are ghosts trying to eat him! Nightmare fuel! He wakes only to find a shadowy demonic shape. But then, the cheesy deus ex machina happens: some soldiers also decide to enter the castle and quickly are devoured by the massive ghost-creature. Conan flees. Again, weak plot, but totally enjoyable with good images.

 

“The Snout in the Dark” – 2 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

 

This second collection of Conan short stories has been great, but it ends on a mediocre note. This was an ambitious story with a lot to chew on. I suspect Howard realized it would have been a better novel and that is why he scrapped it. We have too much world building to do in this tale to make it work: there is a caste/class social system; there is a web of betrayals against the Queen; there is the strange wizard character who needed more background; there is the Snout in the Dark; there is a captive prisoner (with more damn white emphasis); and there is Conan playing a sort of Yojimbo kind of role. I really liked the first part of the story. The head of the Queen’s guard is imprisoned and thinks he will only be locked up but then comes the Snout! Unfortunately, the Snout is a limited scary creature. In fact, after this initial scare, the Snout seems like a poor choice to mount a rebellion against the Queen. It seems like in order for it to be effective, you would have to have your victim captured and tied up, which seems to defeat the point. That aside, the end of the story offers an interesting look at anarchy as the town destroys itself.

Two books in and I am really glad I am reading Conan the Barbarian. Sure the stories are a little bit the same (and then last few had some elements of racism and sexism), but they remind me of my favorite elements of fantasy books and video games: each story introduces a new city, custom, villain, dastardly deed, and Conan heroics. I cannot wait to discover his other adventures and I wonder if he will ever meet his end? Unfortunately, I do not own the third book yet (it is a bit rare) so I don’t know when I will return to Hyperborea, but until then, slay all the monsters!