Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No Conan


The Robert E. Howard Library Volume 7: Beyond the Borders, edited and with an introduction by T.K.F. Weisskopf (1996):

Stories:

1 · The Voice of El-Lil
34 · The Cairn on the Headland
61 · Casonetto’s Last Song
67 · The Cobra in the Dream
76 · Dig Me No Grave
95 · The Haunter of the Ring
117 · Dermod’s Bane
125 · King of the Forgotten People
152 · The Children of the Night
173 · The Dream Snake
182 · The Hyena
200 · People of the Black Coast
213 · The Fire of Asshurbanipal

Conan creator Robert E. Howard may have more variant editions of his many stories than almost any other 20th-century fantasy writer. This volume comes from Baen Books' 1990's Howard line, and focuses on non-Conan, mostly horror and dark fantasy tales set in the 1920's and 1930's. Lost civilizations, African shenanigans, and supernatural investigators predominate, along with a Howard stand-by, the ancestral memory story (or maybe more accurately the 'reincarnation recalled' story).

Most of the stories here are slight but interesting -- Howard was an inherently interesting writer, which is a lot rarer than you may think; even his prejudices can be fascinating. I really like contemporary dark fantasy tale "The Cairn on the Headland", with its suggestion that the pagan gods were actually demonic, possibly Cthulhoid forces from Outside. Howard also has some fun with an evil phonograph recording ("Casonetto's Last Song") and various evil animals, men, and lost races. Editor Weisskopf completely whiffs on one of Howard's real-world historical references (Weisskopf seems to think Howard made up a religion which is in fact is a real one). Oh, well. Lightly recommended.

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